Third Sector Awarded $500,000 by ECMC Foundation for Colorado and Ohio College-Success Initiatives

Third Sector Capital Partners (Third Sector), a consultancy collaborating with government agencies to develop innovative contracts that align policy, dollars, data, and services around improved social outcomes, has been awarded $500,000 by ECMC Foundation to support on-going efforts in Colorado and Ohio to increase college enrollment and graduation rates for specific student populations and to expand these efforts to other states.

ECMC Foundation joins the Kresge Foundation in supporting these efforts, known as The Partnerships to Achieve Student Success (PASS) initiative. PASS aims to launch two pilot pay for success (PFS) projects that will forge direct funding relationships between public higher education institutions and college access and success providers, with the goal of increasing persistence and graduation rates for underserved student populations. The initiative will then leverage those learnings to launch a second national cohort of state higher education systems in 2021 to explore similar work in other states, supported by ECMC Foundation funding.

The Colorado Department of Higher Education’s (CDHE) focus is on re-engaging and retaining low-income adults from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds who have stopped out before completing a degree or credential. The Ohio Department of Higher Education’s (ODHE) focus is on improving persistence and completion outcomes among recipients of the Ohio National Guard Scholarship. 

“Research tells us that low-income, first-generation, and students of color disproportionately experience poorer enrollment, persistence, and graduation outcomes in their paths to and through college,” said Third Sector CEO Caroline Whistler. “ECMC Foundation’s funding will support building relationships between service providers and government agencies. These relationships are pivotal in providing much-needed wraparound services to non-traditional and underserved students.”

Completing a college credential and/or degree has never been more critical to economic success. In Colorado, estimates suggest that as many as 97 percent of in-demand jobs that pay a living wage require a postsecondary credential, underlining how important successful completion in college is for Coloradans to maximize their economic and career potential. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce have surfaced similar insights in Ohio, driving the statewide attainment goal to maximize job, wage, and career advancement opportunities.

”We are pleased to support Third Sector’s innovative work to improve postsecondary outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds,” said Sarah Belnick, Senior Program Director for College Success at ECMC Foundation. “We are excited to explore Pay for Success as a sustainable funding model for higher education and these pilot projects will give us more insight into what approaches can best support students as they pursue their higher education dreams.”

Over the next year, Third Sector will support CDHE and ODHE to construct and launch pilot projects using PFS financing to fund college access and success services that drive improved student outcomes in higher education. Student support services are expected to begin between the summer and fall of 2021.

“Our hope is that success with these projects in Colorado and Ohio can catalyze similar student-centered PFS initiatives with state higher education systems and institutions across the country,” said Third Sector CEO Caroline Whistler. “We know that strong relationships between nonprofit providers and public institutions offering wraparound support services can build accountability to ensure non-traditional and underserved students succeed and graduate.”



About ECMC Foundation

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 underserved 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 grantmaking 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