Beam Partners with Ascendium to Boost Student Retention at Historically Black Colleges & Universities & Tribal Colleges

Beam’s cloud based platform will distribute over $760,000 in emergency aid across 49 minority-serving institutions and generate comprehensive basic needs data

Brooklyn, NY - Beam – the end-to-end platform that streamlines equitable public benefit administration, formerly known as Edquity – today announced its partnership with Ascendium to streamline emergency aid and break down the barriers preventing underrepresented communities from achieving their educational goals. Beam's platform will allow administrators to efficiently track and monitor emergency grants and provide a place for students to apply for this aid. With funding from Ascendium, Beam will distribute 2,000 grants totaling over $760,000 across 49 postsecondary institutions, primarily historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs). 

"Each year, millions of students are forced to leave college due to a financial emergency of $500 or less, but this burden isn’t borne equitably. We know that nearly ⅔ of students at HBCU and 75% of Indigenous students experience basic needs insecurity, a function of the structural lack of support these institutions and their students have received. ,” said David Helene, founder and CEO of Beam. “Beam is honored for the opportunity to partner with Ascendium and its partner institutions to recognize this structural deficiency, remove administrative barriers to the emergency aid so critical for addressing basic needs challenges, and ensure HBCU and Indigenous students are able to persist through graduation.

College retention rates have been dropping since the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly a third of students not completing their degrees. Falling retention rates are even more alarming among underrepresented students. Only 40% of Black students and 39% of Indigenous students graduate college within six years, compared to a 64% graduation rate amongst White students. 

Over half of students who leave college without a degree cite financial burden as the primary reason. To address growing concerns around declining retention, especially as pandemic-era relief programs wind down, student emergency aid programs are becoming increasingly popular amongst higher education institutions. 

“Ascendium is pleased to partner with Beam to assist participating minority serving institutions in helping more students reach their postsecondary education and career goals,” said Beth Erickson, vice president of repayment solutions at Ascendium. “By teaming up with Beam, our partner institutions will be able to distribute emergency funds more quickly and efficiently so learners, especially those from low-income backgrounds, can complete postsecondary education and achieve their academic and career goals.”

The partnership between Beam and Ascendium will focus on student retention across Ascendium’s postsecondary education partners throughout the U.S. Beam will not only distribute emergency aid to cover basic student needs such as housing, transportation, and child care, but Beam’s white label platform will also provide Ascendium and its partners with complete visibility into data across all institutions to help better understand how funds are performing. Beam will also evaluate the rate of students persisting through college year- over- year and provide a read-out of the data across students who have received emergency aid from Ascendium’s partners. As such, this partnership will provide a meaningful contribution to the body of research evaluating the scope of basic needs challenges at HBCUs and TCUs and promising practices for driving student retention at these institutions.

Ascendium is a nonprofit that helps learners reach their postsecondary education and career goals. Ascendium’s work aims to break down barriers to success that prevent people from achieving their dreams – especially those from historically underrepresented populations.  Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, Ascendium supports student success initiatives at 51 minority serving institutions, including 16 HBCUs and 35 TCUs.

Today’s news comes on the heels of Beam’s recent partnership with the Michigan Education Corps, a local AmeriCorps program serving students age three through grade eight, to provide emergency financial aid to active members in the state of Michigan. 

Since 2020, Beam has administered over $200 million to 300,000 households, including rental assistance, utility subsidy for low-income households and direct cash assistance for childcare workers. Beam now provides digital infrastructure for 56 government, institution, and nonprofit partners across 16 states and the District of Columbia.

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