From College to Careers: The Pell Institute Receives $748,000 Ascendium Grant to Explore Career Development within TRIO Programs

The research will examine how TRIO programs can work with existing career services to provide comprehensive career support to learners.

Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach their education and career goals, has awarded the Pell Institute at the Council for Opportunity in Education a $748,000 grant to research TRIO programs. The grant will fund research to develop an evidence-based theoretical model for sustainable, equitable career pathways within colleges and universities that house TRIO programs, specifically Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC), Student Support Services (SSS), and the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

This research aims to provide a framework to help postsecondary institutions develop sustainable and equitable career pathways through strategic career exploration and development programming.

Within the context of TRIO programs, this research will focus on identifying institutional assets and barriers affecting first-generation and low-income learners’ career growth and developing an evidence-based theoretical model toward increasing awareness about institutional capacity. The project aims to provide guidance and insights for colleges and universities seeking to create effective and sustainable career development programs that promote equity and opportunity for historically marginalized learners.

This grant also seeks to highlight the connection between TRIO programs and traditional career services at colleges and universities. The research will examine how TRIO programs can work with existing career services to provide comprehensive career support to learners. By studying the connection between TRIO programs and traditional career services, the project aims to develop strategies for building evidence-based, sustainable, equitable career pathways that have the potential to serve all learners.

“Career services and career advising are available to most college students, but we know they are often under-resourced and under-utilized at most postsecondary institutions,” said Carolynn Lee, senior program officer at Ascendium. “We’re excited to support this exploration by The Pell Institute to understand what additional career development capacities TRIO programs might be able to offer to complement institutional efforts, with the goal of reaching and serving more learners from low-income backgrounds during their critical transition from college to career.”

By partnering with the Pell Institute, Ascendium is working to reduce institutional barriers to accessing and completing college and to help more learners from low-income backgrounds achieve their educational and career goals.

“From college to careers – this is a critical area for the Pell Institute, and we look forward to contributing to national discussions about equitable career pathways starting with TRIO programs in collaboration with our partners at Loyola University Chicago and Career Launch,” said Terry Vaughan III, Vice President of Research and Director of the Pell Institute at the Council for Opportunity in Education.

This grant is part of Ascendium Education Group’s Streamline Key Learner Transitions focus area that seeks to support institutions and systems as they work to facilitate seamless transitions between educational and career opportunities after high school.


The Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) is a nonprofit organization established in 1981, dedicated to expanding college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities. Through its myriad membership services, the Council works with colleges, universities, and agencies that host federal TRIO programs that help more than 800,000 low-income students and students with disabilities each year receive college access and retention services. TRIO programs (Talent Search, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math-Science, Veterans Upward Bound, Student Support Services, Educational Opportunity Centers, and the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program) help students overcome economic, social, academic, and cultural barriers to higher education. TRIO services include assistance in choosing a college and tutoring; personal, financial, and career counseling; assistance in applying to college; workplace and college visits; special instruction in reading, writing, study skills, and mathematics; assistance in applying for financial aid; and academic assistance in high school or assistance to reenter high school or college.

Ascendium Education Group is committed to making education and training beyond high school a reality for more people. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we fund initiatives across the U.S. that help learners from low-income backgrounds achieve upward mobility; provide student and employee success solutions to colleges and businesses; invest in education-focused innovations to improve learner outcomes; and provide information, tools and counseling to help millions of borrowers successfully repay their federal student loans. While we have many roles, we have one goal — elevating opportunity by creating a world where everyone can rise to their highest potential. To learn more, visit

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From the Pell Institute