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Biden-Harris Administration Awards $44.5 Million to Improve Postsecondary Education Access and Completion for Students in Rural Communities

Author: US Department of Education   |   Posted on: December 22, 2023

Biden-Harris Administration Awards $44.5 Million to Improve Postsecondary Education Access and Completion for Students in Rural Communities

The Biden-Harris Administration today announced $44.5 million in grants to 22 institutions of higher education to improve rates of postsecondary education enrollment, persistence, and completion among students in rural communities. The Rural Postsecondary and Economic Development (RPED) grant program promotes the development of high-quality career pathways aligned to high-skill, high-wage, and in-demand industry sectors and occupations in the region.

In America's rural communities, only 29% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 are enrolled in higher education, compared to almost 48% of their counterparts in urban areas and 42% in suburban areas. In addition to navigating how to pay for college and the application process, students in rural areas face other barriers in accessing and completing college, including reliable transportation, food and housing insecurity, and access to health care and high-speed internet.

"The grants announced today by the Biden-Harris administration reflect our commitment to empowering rural communities to build on their strengths, attract new investments, and prepare students for the high-skill, high-wage jobs of tomorrow," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "When we invest in postsecondary attainment in rural communities, we create pathways for students to find rewarding careers that do not require them to leave their hometowns for economic opportunity. These grant awards will help rural institutions Raise the Bar for student success and the attainment of valuable degrees and credentials that lead to brighter futures and greater prosperity."

Today's announcement builds on the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Department of Education's (Department) commitment to students in rural America to have access to career pathways and higher education opportunities that lead to good-paying jobs right in their own communities. This funding also supports the Department's efforts to strengthen the process for students to transition from two-year to four-year institutions. Applicants for the RPED grant program were encouraged to provide programs and implement strategies that support community college students' transition to a four-year institution and that include partnerships that support career pathways for students.

The 2023 List of Grantees:


  • Athens State University will leverage instructional technology, comprehensive wrap-around student support, and innovative educational outreach strategies to provide rural students with flexible and accessible learning opportunities to help them to succeed in postsecondary education and high-paying careers. ($2,209,424)


  • Arizona Board of Regents, Arizona State University will provide appropriate grade level college and career awareness and planning activities including presentations and counseling activities; increased access to college courses; and summer learning programs involving real world project-based learning. ($2,227,498)
  • Graham County Community College District will implement an early College Program for high school students, create a Career Service Center, and enhance rural school outreach for 8th-12th graders. ($2,197,555)


  • College Bridge will provide students and educators access to college knowledge and workforce needs. ($2,196,928)


  • Board of Trustees of Western Illinois University will improve college readiness and access through cross-agency coordination with rural Local Education Agencies and the implementation of evidence-based and culturally relevant pedagogies and programming; increase first-year retention rates by improving support for incoming freshmen transitioning from rural high schools through evidence-based activities and academic and career advising; increase third-year persistence rates by developing an evidence-based and culturally responsive persistence program; and increase post-graduation employment rates by supporting workforce development and enhancing academic career pathways in rural culturally and linguistically diverse communities. ($2,211,294)
  • Northern Illinois University will employ collective impact across community partners for workforce development; create comprehensive student supports system; align faculty for guided pathways from high school to college; and implement career pathways. ($2,105,846)


  • Big Sandy Community and Technical College will restructure its current student advising structure by reimagining the role of advisors and implementing strategies to support students in navigating their chosen pathways effectively. ($1,800,000)
  • Elizabethtown Community and Technical College will work to increase education, awareness and engagement among learners about the diverse and promising career pathways available in advanced manufacturing. ($1,900,000)
  • Hazard Community and Technical College will implement a secondary to post-secondary transition program including Dual Credit Hubs at each high school and area technology centers with new college navigators; access to credit bearing academic courses; college, career, and civic preparation services, including transfer and scholarship opportunities; an online support system which will provide wrap-around services, incentives, tutoring, and focused intrusive coaching and advising for online students; access to workplace and civic preparation and skills training; and professional development for faculty and staff focused on the unique needs of rural students including dual credit, online retention best practices, pedagogy, and transfer. ($2,227,000)
  • Morehead State University will assist high school students with enrollment in college and provide internships and career opportunities to postsecondary students. ($2,218,048)

New Mexico

  • The University of New Mexico-Valencia will facilitate early college camps to prepare first time college students; provide critical non-academic support services including personal, financial, transfer, and/or social and behavioral health needs; revitalize career and technical education programs; establish a regular schedule of outreach to local industry and K-12; supply learning support to current students through class embedded and assigned tutoring; and present opportunities to students to learn through experience. ($2,218,830)

New York

·  The Research Foundation of SUNY at Alfred will prepare students for high-demand jobs through partnerships; work with local rural school districts on dual and early enrollment activities and career development projects; and provide Transfer Career Pathways Coordinator services, focused on regional community colleges with monthly visits, transfer fair attendance, articulation agreements and early transfer credit evaluation (pre-enrollment) for rural students. ($2,040,230)

North Carolina

  • Appalachian State University will provide individualized college and career transition program to underserved students in five rural North Carolina districts including, but not limited to, students from families with low incomes and students of color. ($2,227,500)
  • McDowell Technical Community College will create a strong network of regional adult success coaches; create a strong regional network of critical student supports to enhance access to basic needs resources such as housing, childcare, transportation, health and wellness; and improve professional learning for coaching that "trains the trainers" on best practices related to college preparation, awareness, application, selection, advising, counseling, and enrollment. ($2,227,338)
  • Pitt Community College will provide career coaching and exploration, academic coaching, pathways with stackable credentials, campus visits, college and financial aid application completion, wraparound service referrals, job and career fairs, industry presentations, tutoring, outreach to at-risk students, academic skills building, and support for loss of learning due to COVID. ($1,013,441)


  • Chemeketa Community College will expand career and technical education dual credit courses; develop hybrid CTE and combined school enrollment models; implement innovative technological improvements; enhance advising and Bridge for transitions to college; and provide teachers with effective technology and professional development. ($2,222,423)


  • Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania will recruit and train high-performing students in grades 11 and 12 to serve as tutors to low-performing students in grades 6-8. ($2,227,263)
  • University of Pittsburgh will develop high-quality career pathways aligned with in-demand occupations through admissions recruitment and pre-college programming; provide resources for rural students including internships, mentoring, online tutoring, academic coaching, academic success workshops, career prep, financial literacy, cohort programs, and cultural programming; and scale technology resources such as degree and career exploration tools, mentoring platform, and certificate building. ($2,227,368)

South Carolina

  • Voorhees University will strengthen guided pathways for transitions from high school to college and transfers from two-year to four-year institutions. ($1,965,332)


  • Columbia State Community College will implement structured pathways for individualized student planning for post-secondary entry; enroll all underserved populations in at least one dual enrollment course; provide opportunities to participate in college visits, summits, and career exploration; coordinate orientation and registration events for targeted graduates; remain a resource for wrap-around post-secondary supports until completion and/or transfer; assign a care team for each student; provide career assessments prior to high school and college graduation; establish job shadowing and internship opportunities to both secondary and post-secondary students; provide a speakers' bureau of industry-aligned speakers and job-site visits to secondary partners; coordinate job searches, resume and interviewing skill building for both secondary and post-secondary students; and coordinate career and job fairs. ($1,571,255)


  • Vermont State Colleges d/b/a Vermont Technical College will provide community college transfer students from rural campuses with flexible career pathways to high-wage and high-need occupations, success advising, 24/7 remote tutoring, access to paid experiential learning, assistance with college, financial aid, and scholarship applications, and technology to enroll in credit-bearing hybrid/online courses; undergraduate students at rural campuses with new flexible career pathways to high-wage and high-need occupations, success advising, 24/7 remote tutoring, career development, and access to paid experiential learning opportunities, particularly for in-demand industry sectors and occupations in Vermont; and faculty and staff with access to professional development designed to meet the needs of rural students and increase faculty and staff skills in creating digitally accessible, flexible, hybrid and/or online courses and programs for students. ($1,900,000)


  • Heritage University will provide pathways to increase the number of trained diverse nurses using a Grow Your Own model. ($1,415,427)