Perera is a research assistant in MDRC’s Postsecondary Education policy area. Since joining MDRC in 2021, she has coordinated work on several proposals and projects at various stages of development and provided direct technical assistance to college partners. Past projects include the Achieving the Dream study and technical assistance for the Student Freedom Agreement. Currently, she is the lead report coordinator and a coauthor of the Tools for Postsecondary Schools toolkit, which distills two decades of MDRC research into evidence-based strategies for college professionals at two- and four-year institutions. She is also the report coordinator and coauthor of a report on the Text Ed Demonstration Project, a randomized controlled trial that evaluated the effect of a messaging program on client outcomes in the Educational Opportunity Center program—part of the Federal TRIO Programs to support the educational advancement of students from underserved backgrounds. Before joining MDRC, Perera gained professional experience in political organizing with the North Carolina Democratic Party and strategic partnerships experience with Global Citizen. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology from Harvard University.
A Study of College Transition Text-Based MessagingMay, 2023
Many underserved groups face barriers to college enrollment. This study evaluated a program that supplemented federal supports for these groups through text messages about securing financial aid, completing college enrollment, and navigating other barriers. The study found that adding the messaging program did not increase rates of college enrollment.Toolkit
Putting Evidence to Work for Student SupportMarch, 2023
The Tools for Postsecondary Schools interactive toolkit is designed to help staff members and administrators at two- and four-year colleges use evidence-based practices to support students. It draws on over 20 years of MDRC research and technical assistance and can help practitioners at any stage in the program-development process.Brief
A Study of Achieving the Dream in FloridaDecember, 2022
Implementing institutional change is challenging. Achieving the Dream (ATD) provides expert guidance to promote positive change, close achievement gaps, and accelerate student success at community colleges, particularly among students of color and from low-income backgrounds. This brief summarizes the common drivers of institution-wide reforms at nine ATD colleges in Florida.
ProjectsMichelle Ware, Alexander Mayer, Colleen Sommo, Leigh Parise, Elena Serna-Wallender, Jálynn Castleman-Smith, Shawna Anderson, Rae Walker, Melissa Wavelet, Katie Beal, Melissa Boynton, Diane Wren, Sumner Perera
The COVID -19 pandemic has dramatically affected colleges’ operations and students’ educational experiences, severely strained budgets, and created unprecedented financial and emotional stress for students, faculty, and staff. As colleges adapt to an evolving landscape, they need immediate solutions to support and retain students, as well as to continue to focus on...Alexander Mayer, Michelle Ware, Frieda Molina, Hannah Dalporto, Andrea Vasquez, Susan Scrivener, John Diamond, Dorota Biedzio Rizik, Rashida Welbeck, Sophia Sutcliffe, Clinton Key, Melissa Boynton, Austin Slaughter, Erick Alonzo, Kalito Luna, Xavier Alemañy, Melissa West, Sumner Perera
Income share agreements ( ISA s) are designed to help students pay for and attend postsecondary education and career training programs. With an ISA , students receive financial support to help cover the cost of their education and, in return, agree to pay a fixed percentage of their future income over a predetermined time period. ISA s are gaining popularity as an...Alexander Mayer, David Navarro, Caitlin Anzelone, Evan Weissman, Dan Cullinan, Elena Serna-Wallender, Stanley Dai, Sumner Perera
The college enrollment process is complex and includes many steps. Recent research has shown that short, action-oriented text messages can help people focus on critical tasks at the right times. Building on this promising research, the Text Ed project will develop and test a strategic text messaging intervention at Educational Opportunity Centers ( EOC s). One of eight...Alexander Mayer, Dan Cullinan, Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow, Sumner Perera
Community colleges enroll almost half of all U.S. undergraduate students, yet the majority of these students leave without earning a degree or certificate or transferring to another institution to continue their studies. As a result, they risk losing the opportunity to learn and to earn a livable wage.
Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count was a...