Get the latest information about federal student loan initiatives, including Fresh Start.

Community Giving

Investing in our Madison, Wisconsin, community makes us all stronger.
Literacy Network

Transforming Lives Through Literacy

Amount: $375,000 | Date: January 2024

Supporting new residents with language skill development is critical to maximizing their contributions to their local community and economy. Literacy Network offers literacy services to help those new to Dane County improve their English language skills, reading comprehension, and use of information technology. With improved skills, these adults advance their careers, help their kids succeed in school, become U.S. citizens, and obtain their high school diploma or other degrees.

This grant from Ascendium supports Literacy Network in expanding and strengthening its programs over the next three years. The expanded programming will include digital literacy instruction as well as new English as a Second Language class and tutoring offerings that meet student scheduling needs.

operation fresh start logo

Training Tomorrow’s Workforce

Amount: $300,000 | Date: August 2023

Operation Fresh Start empowers young adults on a path to self-sufficiency through education, mentoring, and employment training. One way it does this is through its training academies, which pay Dane County residents ages 18-24 to work with industry professionals as they gain hands-on experience in their chosen fields.

A $300,000 grant from Ascendium supports Operation Fresh Start in bolstering these efforts. The new-and-improved training will consist of traditional trades with expansion into several aspects of natural resource management, as dictated by the need for workers in emerging green industries.

Urban League of Greater Madison

Empowering Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Amount: $2.5 million | Date: February 2023

Created by the Urban League of Greater Madison, the Black Business Hub will be a four-story, 76,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art center of commerce and entrepreneurism located on Madison’s southside. At present, only a miniscule percentage of Dane County businesses with more than one employee are Black owned. The Hub aims to change that by giving Black entrepreneurs the space and financial resources to grow.

Ascendium’s $2.5 million donation moves the project closer to its $26 million goal. Over the next few years, the Hub will house at least 100 Black-owned businesses, from startups to expansions. It will also offer training, coaching, loans, grants, technical help and networking opportunities to business owners and entrepreneurs.

Boys and Girls Club of Dane County

Building Better Futures

Amount: $1.5 million | Date: January 2023

A project of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County, the McKenzie Regional Workforce Center aims to fill the need for skilled trade laborers while empowering all young people, especially those in need, to reach their full potential. Through its Careerforce Build Up training program, the Center will teach students the hard skills they’ll need to pursue family-sustaining careers as plumbers, carpenters, electricians, HVAC technicians and more. Students will also learn the soft skills, such as emotional support, they’ll need as they transition to the workplace.

Ascendium’s $1.5 million donation supports the McKenzie Regional Workforce Center Endowment. This sustainable resource will allow the facility to train the workforce of the future for years to come.

Good Neighbor Grant collage of recipient logos Good Neighbor Grant collage of recipient logos


While Ascendium is based in Madison, Wisconsin, we have employees who work remotely across the country. To capitalize on the deep knowledge our employees have of their communities, we created the Good Neighbor Grants program. Under this program, employees nominate and vote for local organizations that are going above and beyond to create education and workforce training opportunities. The top 20 vote-getters — 14 in the Madison-area and six in remote locations — receive a $50,000 grant from Ascendium to support their efforts.

Centro Hispano of Dane County

Expanding Vital Programming

Amount: $2.5 million | Date: September 2022

Centro Hispano of Dane County has served the Madison community for almost 40 years, providing vital youth, family, education, employment and other programming to the Latino population. Having outgrown its current space, Centro is building a new 25,000 square-foot facility that will allow it to serve an additional 1,000 community members each year and add more programming, including a bilingual nursing career path.

Inspired by Centro’s success in creating direct pathways to improved education and employment, Ascendium contributed $2.5 million to its new facility and expanded programming. The new facility is slated to open in late 2023.

The Center

Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders

Amount: $2.5 million | Date: May 2022

The Center for Black Excellence and Culture will be a gathering place that inspires, encourages and showcases Black excellence in the Madison area and beyond. The Center’s programming will be a vital community resource, focusing on health, wellness, leadership, innovation, performing arts, visual arts, youth and family. Construction on The Center is slated to begin in late 2022, with completion planned for late 2023.

Ascendium’s $2.5 million gift to The Center’s capital campaign will sponsor a Youth and Student Center wing that will equip learners of all ages with the tools they need to succeed. Among other features, the wing will include study space and classrooms for leadership development, STEM education and Black history studies.

Urban League of Greater Madison

Meeting Workforce Needs

Amount: $250,000 | Date: February 2022

The Urban League of Greater Madison helps African Americans and other community members become educated, employed and empowered to advance professionally and contribute to the common good. To do this, the Urban League collaborates with local businesses to help learners secure new or better work in stable and emerging industries. 

Aided by a $250,000 grant from Ascendium, the Urban League is expanding its training academy for commercial driving and creating a new training academy for careers in the solar installation and related renewable energy field. The academies will increase job placements and wages for at least 100 learners from low-income backgrounds by 2024.

College Goal Wisconsin

Making College a Reality

Amount: $6,500 | Date: July 2022

College Goal Wisconsin provides free information and assistance to families completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the federally required form for students seeking financial aid. For 15 years, the all-volunteer program has helped thousands of young people, including first-generation college students and those from low-income backgrounds, making their dream of attending college a reality.

Ascendium's gift is helping College Goal Wisconsin facilitate virtual FAFSA events. These events offer students and their families free professional assistance with completing the FAFSA and an opportunity to win a scholarship.

Our Commitment to Wisconsin

Wisconsin Covenant

Over the years, we’ve leveraged our abilities, expertise, and resources to help learners in our home state of Wisconsin succeed. The resulting programs and initiatives are designated as our Wisconsin Covenant® to represent our commitment to Wisconsin.

Lawyers for Learners

Confidential Legal Help

Legal obstacles can prevent people from achieving their academic goals or pursuing certain career paths. Lawyers for Learners connects students in Wisconsin with free, confidential legal help so they can overcome those obstacles and move forward with their life. Founded by Ascendium team members in 2019, Lawyers for Learners is a collaboration between colleges, businesses, law firms, and legal aid organizations in Wisconsin.

Student Loan Start Over

Personalized Student Loan Counseling

Defaulting on a student loan can have far-reaching effects. It can limit access to financial aid and cause significant financial burdens, such as wage garnishment and tax refund offsets. Student Loan Start Over™ provides free, hands-on support to help Milwaukee County residents resolve and recover from default. The program is made possible by a grant the Wisconsin Department of Administration awarded Ascendium Education Solutions, a division of Ascendium, in 2022.

Tools of the Trade Apprentice Scholarship

Apprentice Scholarships

Apprenticeships create pathways to family-sustaining jobs and offer the potential for lifetime career growth. However, they can be expensive. To help relieve financial pressures, Ascendium annually awards Tools of the Trade scholarships to eligible construction and industrial trade apprentices enrolled in a Wisconsin technical college. With these scholarships, apprentices can purchase the equipment, tools, and clothing they need to complete their training and secure an in-demand job.

Wisconsin Coalition on Student Debt

Student Loan Help Hotline

Student loans can be confusing, especially with ever-changing federal rules and regulations. Unfortunately, scammers often take advantage of this confusion. That’s why the Wisconsin Coalition on Student Debt and Ascendium Education Solutions created the Wisconsin Student Loan Help Hotline in 2020. This free hotline provides reliable and comprehensive information to borrowers in Wisconsin, allowing them to understand their options and feel confident in their choices.