What is this grant?

We are seeking proposals from Mississippi organizations capable of coordinating the work needed for the state to reach the Ascent to 55% Statewide Attainment Goal.


What will the grantee receive?

The selected organization will receive:

  • Grant support of $1 million over four years
  • Additional funding may be available for statewide convenings, creation of a data-sharing system, and other expenses outside of standard organizational operations
  • Technical assistance from WHEF and WHEF’s partners
  • Possible future funding based on demonstrated progress in outcomes and sustainability


What is the size and structure of the grant award?

The grantee organization will each receive a four-year award of $1 million. Twenty-five percent of the grant funds will be disbursed each year of the grant: Year 1 (2021), Year 2 (2022), Year 3 (2023), and Year 4 (2024).


What type of community organization is eligible to apply?

At minimum, applicants must:

  • Must be a Mississippi-based nonprofit or governmental entity
  • Have at least one year of audited financial statements that cover 2019
  • Have a mission that fits with the attainment effort
  • Has existing partnerships and demonstrated leadership at the local, state, and regional level
  • Have demonstrated commitment to racial equity
  • Have capabilities in convening stakeholders in education, employers/workforce, postsecondary
  • Have experience in working on issues of public policy
  • Have experience in building effective partnerships
  • Have experience in securing additional resources
  • Have at least one staff member dedicated full time to this work


What type of organizations will not be considered?

This opportunity will not provide funding to:

  • Private foundations
  • Organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, sex, gender identity or expression, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, veteran’s status or other legally protected personal characteristic or status
  • Individuals
  • Lobbying, political causes, campaigns, or candidates
  • Organizations that require the use of a fiscal sponsor or agent


Can a university or college apply?

No. Due to the nature of the grant, this could be seen as a conflict of interest. However, colleges and universities may participate in collaboration with an existing applicant.


How can colleges and universities connect with other potential partner applicants?

For any stakeholders that are either not eligible or intending to apply, but want to express interest in partnership and collaboration efforts, please email AscentTo55@woodwardhines.org with the following information: your organization’s name, primary contact name, primary contact email address, and a brief summary of what expertise your organization offers to the project.


Where can I view the list of interested partners? 



Is there a way to express interest in working with the selected grantee organization?

Yes.  Please email your organization’s name, primary contact name, primary contact email address, and a brief summary of what expertise your organization offers to the project to AscentTo55@woodwardhines.org.  WHEF’s internal team will collect this information to share with the selected grantee to identify partnership opportunities.


Will there be a convening of those interested in applying for Ascent to 55%?

Because of the scale and scope of this effort, the Woodward Hines team wants to remain as flexible as possible to meet the needs of interested parties during the application phase.  At this time, we request that additional questions be directed to AscentTo55@woodwardhines.org; however, should we determine that hosting an additional convening is necessary to provide clarity on the process, we will email prior webinar attendees and those that have expressed application interest.


What resources already exist to help applicants think through this process rather than having to “re-invent the wheel”?

Many other states have implemented attainment goals, and each has their own unique approach. The Lumina Foundation details how other states and organizations tackle their attainment goal – this is just one place to start when seeking inspiration.


We do not have at least one year of audited financial statements; can we still apply?

No. WHEF requires audited financial statements from all applicants to help us better understand and assess the organization’s financial position and internal financial controls through third-party evaluation.


Is there a minimum or maximum budget size that is required for an organization to apply?

No. There is no budget size requirement associated with this funding opportunity. However, please make sure that you consider how a grant of $1 million payable over four years would impact your public support calculation before applying.


Are there any restrictions on the grantee’s ability to recover their indirect costs (such as overhead or facilities & administration costs) in conducting a project?

Up to 15% of the grant award can be allocated to indirect costs.


Would it be allowable for the grantee to use the award to distribute smaller “mini-grants” throughout the state?

Yes, this would be an allowable cost.


What is the grant term and what are the reporting requirements?

WHEF seeks to disburse grant payments beginning in 2021 and through 2024. The grant period is 48 months from the date the grant is awarded. Selected organizations will be required to submit interim and final reports via WHEF’s online grant portal.


How will our institution be notified of application approval or decline?

The institution will be individually notified of an award decision by email, which will include executive leadership and the project lead(s). Additionally, a formal announcement will be posted to woodwardhines.org in December 2021. A commitment letter detailing the terms and conditions of the grant will be delivered to the grantee via postal mail and signed copied must be returned to WHEF prior to distribution of grant funds.


How does WHEF define “underserved” or “underrepresented” students?

In general, populations that have been traditionally underrepresented (in enrollment, retention, persistence, and/or completion) in institutions of higher learning are considered “underserved,” “at risk,” or underrepresented.” These populations include, but are not limited to, students who are:

  • From low-socioeconomic backgrounds (Pell-eligible)
  • The first in their families to attend college
  • Members of racial, ethnic minority or undocumented immigrant groups
  • Transfers from community colleges or other four-year universities
  • From rural communities
  • Enrolled in the institution part-time or working off-campus while enrolled
  • Supporting families while enrolled
  • Military veterans or active members of the armed forced
  • Re-entering higher education after a period of enrollment stop-out


How does WHEF define college?

We think of college as any education beyond high school that leads to financial stability. It can be a four-year degree or beyond, but it can also be a two-year community college degree or a certificate in career and technical education.


Are proposals allowed to include cost-sharing?

Yes. Proposals can include the identification of additional revenue streams and partners to supplement and demonstrate sustainability of the project's operations during and beyond the grant period.


Are institutions allowed to use funds to pay for effort/supplement salaries of existing personnel?



What is the total funding available and how many projects will be funded?

A total of $1 million in direct grant funding is available. Only one organization will be selected.


How can we get information about this funding opportunity?

Additional information about this funding opportunity can be found on our website. Additionally, WHEF hosted a live webinar which is now available to view here. Webinar slides can be viewed here


Who do I contact for more information?

If you have any questions, please contact AscentTo55@woodwardhines.org.