The programs operated at a total of 37 community colleges. The 11 Dreamkeepers institutions were a subset of colleges in Lumina’s Achieving the Dream initiative; the 26 Angel Fund colleges are comprised of Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). Each participating college determined how to design and administer their program, including guidelines for eligibility and award levels. In order to help institutionalize these programs after Lumina’s funding ended, each college was also expected to raise funds during a given program year to secure funding in the subsequent year.
The Achieving the Dream colleges were originally chosen because they enroll large numbers of low-income students and students of color — groups with high rates of attrition who have been traditionally underserved in the education system. American Indian students, at TCUs in particular, are also more prone to experience financial hardships and could likely benefit from short-term financial aid.
MDRC’s report covers the first two years of each program. The evaluation relied largely on qualitative methods, including surveys, interviews, and focus groups with program administrators and staff from the participating colleges, to learn about program implementation. MDRC also interviewed staff from the two intermediary organizations, as well as Dreamkeepers aid recipients. In addition, the research team analyzed student record data to better describe the characteristics and educational outcomes (such as persistence) of aid recipients.