Ascent to 55%

The Need

The Woodward Hines Education Foundation (WHEF) is a 501(c)3 organization committed to helping more Mississippians obtain the postsecondary degree, certification, or credential that will allow them to improve their qualities of life. Our commitment to postsecondary education is rooted in the belief that an education beyond high school benefits individuals, families, and communities. Our commitment is further rooted in research that shows that a bachelor's degree can shift a family from cyclical poverty to living wage work opportunities for generations.

Through strategic grantmaking, WHEF supports the Mississippi Community College system and the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. Now, WHEF seeks to support the work needed to enable Mississippi to reach its newly-established postsecondary attainment goal, Ascent to 55%.

The establishment of a statewide attainment goal is aligned with projections about the future of work. According to the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce, 70% of all jobs will require a postsecondary degree or credential by 2027. Mississippi's current rate of postsecondary attainment for working-age adults, ages 25 to 64, is 44%, compared to a national attainment rate of 51.9%.

The Creation of Ascent to 55%

Mississippi’s Education Achievement Council (EAC) was established in 2010 for the purpose of sustaining attention to the state’s goal of increasing the educational attainment and skill levels of the state’s working-age population. In October 2020, the EAC passed a resolution to adopt a postsecondary attainment goal in the state of Mississippi. In that resolution, they established two goals:
By 2030, Mississippi will increase the postsecondary attainment of its workforce to 55%.
By 2035, Mississippi will increase the postsecondary attainment of its workforce to 60%.

The Opportunity: Coordination of Work for Ascent to 55%

We are seeking proposals from Mississippi organizations to identify a single grantee to coordinate the work needed for the state to reach the Ascent to 55% Statewide Attainment Goal. The grantee organization will be the backbone organization for this collective impact college attainment initiative. Therefore, while the ultimate goal of increasing postsecondary educational attainment in Mississippi is the responsibility of many organizations and sectors across the state, WHEF’s expectation is that the grantee organization will coordinate data collection and evaluation on progress toward the goal.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

The grantee organization:

● Must be a Mississippi-based nonprofit or governmental entity
● Have a mission that fits with the attainment effort
● Have 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
● Must dedicate at least one full-time staff member to this work

Ascent to 55% Key Dates

August 8, 2021: Release of RFP Application
August 23, 2021: RFP Informational Webinar @ 10 a.m.
September 30, 2021: Application Due Date
October/early November 2021: Application review site visits or interviews
December 2021: Decision and funding announcement


Mississippi's Postsecondary Attainment Goal Resolution
Lumina Foundation Stronger Nation Report
Study: Setting a Postsecondary Attainment Goal for Mississippi
Summary Report: Setting a Postsecondary Attainment Goal for MS

For more information

Download the full Ascent to 55% RFP here

View the FAQ page here

View the Ascent to 55% Informational Webinar recording here

View the Ascent to 55% Informational Webinar slides here

View the Ascent to 55% Partner Interest submissions here


For further questions, contact: