ECMC Foundation Awards Grant to the Institute for Evidence-Based Change To Support Rural Community Colleges



August 28, 2023

America’s rural colleges continue to struggle with demographic changes and the after effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rural community college students face obstacles in accessing post-secondary education including traveling long distances to get to schools, poor educational preparation, and inconsistent access to technology. They are less likely to be enrolled in college than students from cities, suburbs, and towns: 29% of rural Americans aged 18-24 are enrolled in colleges and universities, compared to 42% of all Americans in this age range.

Rural students are more likely to be first-generation students and come from low-income families. They may feel unequipped to navigate their college experience, from working with financial aid to talking with professors.

ECMC Foundation, a nationally-focused foundation whose mission is to improve higher education for career success among under-served populations through evidence-based innovation, will provide funding to the Institute for Evidence-Based Change (IEBC) to expand Caring Campus to target rural community colleges. Caring Campus will be tailored to rural college challenges and will create a support network including activities to bring participating community colleges together to share resources and best practices.

The newly announced $748,000 grant will start in FY2024 and extend through FY2025. Up to 18 rural community colleges will be selected for participation.

“Our participating colleges are seeing tremendous results, but they have primarily been larger campuses in major metropolitan areas,” explained Dr. Brad Phillips, President/CEO of IEBC. “Working with some rural colleges in West Virginia, Texas, and elsewhere, we’ve learned they have unique challenges and needs.  By adjusting our practices, we can bring the Caring Campus approach to more community colleges to address their challenges.”

In addition to the new outreach program, IEBC will create the Caring Campus Network, affording the opportunity for its existing Caring Campus colleges to better connect and share their ideas and experiences with a network offering activities including a searchable database of best practices, regularly hosted round-table discussions, training resources, a participant directory, and access to research and other practical resources.

“Community college staff aren’t always able to travel to conferences, and have fewer internal resources to rely on to support innovative practices,” said Phillips. “Fostering connections through our existing Caring Campus participants with our new rural college participants will allow everyone involved to share experiences, discuss best practices, and provide peer support.”

The Institute for Evidence-Based Change has been dedicated to improving student outcomes in schools, colleges, and universities across the nation by fostering student belonging through data-driven decision-making and implementing changes to campus culture. Since it was launched in 2019, there are now over 100 participating colleges.

Research shows that some colleges are seeing as high as a 20% change in course success and doubling graduation rates. The Community College Research Center (CCRC) has conducted an extensive review and evaluation of Caring Campus and has published a series of reports on this highly effective effort:

“This project aligns with ECMC Foundation’s commitment to driving systemic change in higher education, particularly for community colleges which serve millions of students across our nation. We know rural students face unique challenges and the Caring Campus model is making impressive headway,” said Jacob Fraire, president of ECMC Foundation. We are proud to support the Institute for Evidence-Based Change as the organization works to support vulnerable student populations on their journeys toward successful college completion.”

About the Institute for Evidence-Based Change (IEBC)
The Institute for Evidence-Based Change (IEBC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping education stakeholders — community colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, employers, and others — use coaching, collaboration, and data to make informed decisions and craft solutions that improve practice and dramatically increase student success. With our focus on these two areas – Caring Campus and Data Use – we partner with our clients to successfully implement customized evidence-based solutions to today’s most pressing issues, including our engagement to address inequities and ensure that all students are able to fulfill their dreams. Our work in all areas reflects this commitment. Learn more about IEBC at

About ECMC Foundation (ECMC)  
ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among under-served populations—through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas: College Success and Career Readiness; and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grant-making and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. Learn more about ECMC Foundation by visiting and ECMC Group by visiting