College System of Tennessee awarded $1.4M Ascendium grant to improve student supports and outcomes at community colleges

male college graduate hugging a loved one

The College System of Tennessee has received a momentous opportunity in the form of a $1.4 million grant from Ascendium Education Group, providing vital resources to strengthen student supports and success that can shape the future of our state’s academic pathways. 

Led by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), the funds have been earmarked to merge and embed TBR's Learning Mindset initiative within the High Impact Practices (HIPs) initiative across Tennessee’s 13 community colleges, with a particular focus on boosting support for underrepresented groups by integrating these practices into the fabric of their academic pathways. The TBR will be collaborating with Motivate Lab, a research lab based at the University of Virginia, to implement the scaling of mindset-supportive practices within HIPs. 

“With this funding, we can more effectively provide intentional course design and better outcomes for all students at our community colleges,” said TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings. “By embedding learning mindset-supportive practices within HIP-designated courses we can target underserved students within all academic pathways.”

HIPs are evidence-based teaching and learning practices, such as First-Year Seminars or Service Learning, that have been tested and shown to improve student outcomes. Characteristics of high-impact activities include: setting appropriately high expectations of students; interaction with faculty and peers about substantive matters; experiences with diversity; frequent feedback; reflection and integrative learning; real-world applications; and demonstrated competence. TBR data has shown that integrating HIPs into campus and course design results in higher student academic attainment and completion rates.

Meanwhile, the Academic Mindset initiative focuses on three essential learning mindsets: growth mindset, purpose and relevance, and sense of belonging. They include small practices, activities, and teaching methods designed to easily integrate into existing courses and focus on adapting the learning context to better support healthy student mindsets.

Combining both strategies together will allow for more effective scaling of supports with the goal of reaching more students and sustaining these initiatives over time. By offering streamlined resource sharing, training, and system-level support, TBR plans to scale this work in traditional semester-long courses as well as alternative seven-week term courses.


Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color and veterans. Ascendium's work identifies, validates and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all. For more information, visit

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 24 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.