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

Community Giving

Investing in our Madison, Wisconsin, community makes us all stronger.
Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

Educating the Next Generation of Public Policy Leaders

Amount: $500,000 | Date: May 2024

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, student interest in public policy has skyrocketed in recent years. The La Follette School of Public Affairs aims to meet the high demand for public policy education while preparing more students than ever for careers in public service. Capitalizing on student interest in public policy now could mean solving problems that affect us tomorrow.

This grant from Ascendium supports La Follette in enlarging their capacity to educate the next generation of public policy leaders. Thanks to La Follette’s hands-on training, these leaders can improve postsecondary education at the systems level, thereby expanding opportunities for even more students to reach their academic and career goals.

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.

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.

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.

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.