Rural Education Initiative Launched Through WT Earns Major Carnegie Grant

Chip Chandler Mar 26, 2024
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Rural Education Initiative Launched Through WT Earns Major Carnegie Grant

CONTACT: Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,; Celeste Ford, Chief Communications Officer of Carnegie Corporation of New York,  


CANYON, Texas — An initiative spearheaded by West Texas A&M University to help rural students earn bachelor’s degrees while staying in their hometowns has won a $200,000 grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The Collegiate Edu-Nation Rural HOPE Project is one of 10 winners of a new initiative to support outstanding local partnerships that serve as national models of how institutions can collaborate for the good of their communities by educating youth and bolstering the workforce.

“We have worked intently with Collegiate Edu-Nation on innovative approaches to higher education in rural areas to address issues facing these communities,” said WT President Walter V. Wendler. “The Carnegie Corporation’s recognition of these innovative programs addressing higher education is both exciting and well-deserved.”

Profiles in Collective Leadership provides grants for nonpartisan collaborations that serve as education and economic bridges in a range of communities across the country. The philanthropic initiative draws on the strengths of local government, education, nonprofit, business and health care professionals to create career opportunities for young people and encourage civic participation.

Collegiate Edu-Nation, a nonprofit organization in West Texas, grew out of a challenge issued in 2018 by The Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp for WT to develop a baccalaureate program for students in Roscoe Independent School District in collaboration with Western Texas College in Snyder.

Seven students enrolled in the program in 2019, and all seven graduated from WT with fully online degrees within two years with zero debt, thanks to grants and other financial streams supporting CEN.

The organization collaborates with local school districts and universities and community and business leaders to end education and income inequality in rural Texas and elsewhere. It now now reaches 27,000 rural students in over 28 districts across Texas, including Floydada, Sunray and White Deer in the Texas Panhandle, with expansion into Illinois and West Virginia.

Its Rural HOPE Project works with higher education, employers and school district partners to identify workforce needs, provide workforce development, and implement targeted teacher training and leadership development across a P–20 school model—from pre-kindergarten through higher education.

The Corporation’s 10 recognized partnerships in eight states will act as exemplars, sharing what they have learned with each other and with the public. By funding collaborations in urban, suburban and rural areas, the Corporation seeks to reduce political polarization and support civic engagement, community cohesion, and trust in public institutions. The Corporation aims to help young people from all backgrounds move from the classroom to meaningful careers, spurring the socioeconomic mobility necessary to create a thriving economy and sustain a healthy democracy. 

The Corporation, in partnership with the education nonprofit Transcend, identified candidates through a competitive national process. The winners were selected by a panel of jurors comprised of a broad range of leaders in business, higher education, and philanthropy.

CEN addresses educational challenges in rural communities: limited resources, unequal access to quality education, and disconnects between education and workforce needs. In rural Texas, 1.2 million children under the age of 18 experience disproportionately higher poverty rates and lower educational achievement. CEN aims to produce 100 percent high school completion, with 90 percent of those high school graduates earning associate degrees and industry-recognized certifications, 80 percent earning bachelor’s degrees within three years, and 70 percent earning postgraduate degrees and advanced certifications, all with little or no student debt.   

On average, 60 percent of the graduates from districts in the CEN network who have implemented the P–20 model for four or more years are graduating with associate degrees and/or certifications within four years of implementing the model. In Roscoe, where CEN began, up to 90 percent of high school seniors have graduated with associate degrees and certifications. 

"We're not just improving academic outcomes; we're uplifting entire communities,” said Kim Alexander, founder and chief executive officer of Collegiate Edu-Nation. “Our approach ensures that every student, regardless of their background, has access to a continuum of education that prepares them for the challenges and opportunities of the future. It's about creating a culture of continuous learning and support, where every step forward is a step toward greater opportunity and achievement for all." 

The award underlines the importance of CEN’s collaborative approach in developing models that serve the unique needs of rural education and its communities, said Rachel McClain, president.

“This award is a call to action, inspiring us to continue driving change and innovation through unity and shared vision,” McClain said.

In addition to the $200,000 grant, winners will receive opportunities to document and share their story nationally and participate in a community of practice committed to highlighting and replicating these approaches and solutions.

“We launched Profiles based on our belief that communities across the country are working to create opportunities for economic and social mobility as well as civic engagement irrespective of red, blue, or purple politics — and we want to listen and learn from them,” said LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, vice president of the Corporation’s National Program and program director of Education. “Collegiate Edu-Nation is a leading example of this type of collaborative work on the local level, and our hope is that by spotlighting and funding their efforts, we can ultimately influence the field to work in new and collective ways that also mitigate the impact of polarization.”

Meeting the needs of rural communities and students is a key mission of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, which reached its initial $125 million goal 18 months after publicly launching in September 2021. The campaign’s new goal is to reach $175 million by 2025; currently, it has raised nearly $160 million.


About Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation’s work focuses on the issues that Carnegie considered of paramount importance: education, international peace, and a strong democracy. As a leading philanthropic funder of nonprofit education programs, the Corporation supports organizations working to ensure that all students are prepared with the knowledge, skills, and motivation they need to fully participate in democracy and thrive in the global economy. Learn more about the Profiles in Collective Leadership initiative at     


About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.