Strada Education Network Launches $10 Million Beyond Completion Challenge in Partnership with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity 

Grant competition seeks to connect learning with employment for first-generation students, those who struggle to afford education, and students of color.
October 14, 2021

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INDIANAPOLIS — Strada Education Network announced today a $10 million grant challenge aimed at helping higher education institutions launch, test, and scale innovations that improve career and life opportunities after graduation for more students of color as well as first-generation students and those who struggle to afford education.

Strada is partnering with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity to launch the Beyond Completion Challenge to reimagine higher education to better serve students’ needs. Each institution participating in the challenge will develop an initiative on their campus or in collaboration with other organizations, including industry partners, that fosters a more effective higher education experience. The challenge — which includes $3 million in innovation grants this year and $7 million in scaling grants in 2022 — is intended to support initiatives that will focus on equitable outcomes through and beyond college completion. The Taskforce, created in the spring of 2020 by three dozen presidents and chancellors representing close to 100 colleges and universities and 2.4 million students with organizational support from McKinsey & Company, has been working to improve higher education to address persistent inequities that were exacerbated by the pandemic.

“We want to recognize and extend the great work these institutions are already doing to re-envision postsecondary education. We hope the Beyond Completion Challenge will help close equity gaps for more graduates, especially for those who have faced the most barriers,” said Strada’s Ruth Watkins. “We must shift our focus beyond completion of credentials and degrees. We need to design and deliver an educational experience that connects learning with employment so that every student can secure a good job, do meaningful work, and lead a fulfilling life.”

James B. Milliken, chancellor of The University of Texas System and a member of the Taskforce, said support from Strada is an important milestone in the Taskforce’s work and a vote of confidence in the colleges and universities who are collaborating to improve student outcomes beyond earning a credential or degree.

“Institutions of higher education must actively connect learning with employment so that we can meet the needs of our workforce and provide equitable outcomes for students,” Milliken said. “This funding will help give institutions the resources to create those pathways.”

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said the challenge “aligns with the priorities of the Taskforce and CUNY’s own ongoing efforts to connect students, especially those from underserved communities, to employment opportunities that advance their careers and remove barriers to economic and social mobility.”

“This grant competition is a testament to the value and efficacy of the Taskforce, which, through partnerships like this, advances the goal of realizing a more equitable and inclusive economic recovery, one that embraces and creates career pathways for the most vulnerable students,”​ he said.

President Kate Smith of Rio Salado College, said:  “This generous investment Strada is making in the Taskforce will provide critical seed money for colleges to create new, customized learning opportunities that increase access to higher learning, gainful employment, and socio-economic mobility.”

About the Beyond Completion Challenge

The challenge will be conducted in two phases. In this first phase, Taskforce institutions are invited to propose new projects that will help students achieve measurable outcomes focused on employment, economic stability, and fulfillment of purpose. Up to 15 projects will be funded at up to $250,000 per project for a total of $3 million to be awarded in Phase One.

In 2022, institutions that were awarded support in Phase One, and other Taskforce members, will be invited to expand their work. The emphasis in Phase Two will be to reach larger numbers of students or to partner with other institutions or industries to significantly share and expand effective practices. Up to $7 million in additional funds will be awarded in Phase Two.

Courtney McBeth, Strada senior vice president who is leading the challenge, said priority will be given to those proposals that include diverse and inclusive leadership and implementation teams, student perspectives, data to identify solutions, and initiatives with the potential to be expanded and sustained to help large numbers of students in the future. In addition, institutions must show strong support by their leadership and be eager to pursue additional public, philanthropic, and institutional funding to support the initiative.

Learn more about the Taskforce’s work and Strada’s Beyond Completion Challenge here.

About Strada Education Network

Strada Education Network is a new kind of nonprofit social impact organization, dedicated to increasing individuals’ economic mobility through purposeful connections between education and employment. Our approach combines innovative research, thought leadership, strategic philanthropy and investments, and support for individuals through student coaching, work-based learning, career exploration, and helping adults learn new skills throughout their careers. Together, we work to better serve the millions of Americans seeking to complete postsecondary education and training, gain clear value from those experiences, and build meaningful careers. Learn more at stradaeducation.org.

About the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

The Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity is a community of three dozen presidents and chancellors representing nearly 100 public, private, two- and four-year institutions and 2.4 million students. The Taskforce was launched in 2020 to address the challenges of the pandemic, income inequality, the changing nature of work, and unemployment among recent college graduates. Learn more at taskforceonhighered.org/.

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