.....On to the panels…The first was by Austin Slaughter of MDRC. MDRC has developed a free app that helps college administrators determine the likely return on investment of various possible interventions. For example, if a given college wanted to implement a version of the ASAP program developed by CUNY, it could plug and chug through an algorithm and generate projected expenses (direct and indirect) and revenues (both tuition and state aid). He did a demonstration, which I have to admit was pretty impressive.
The app comes with a set of researched interventions, but it also allows for estimates of the effects of possible new ones.
I haven’t spent quality time with it yet, but it strikes me as an admirable first attempt to solve a real problem. From a practitioner perspective, it’s important to be able to figure out whether the retention benefits of, say, a student success course will cover the cost of its development. The app is forward-looking and necessarily fallible, but it’s more empirically grounded than a hunch. Something like ASAP may well be worth doing even if it doesn’t pay for itself—in the demo, it didn’t—but having the ability to estimate the magnitude of the shortfall allows for strategy around the use of grants, philanthropy and the like. It’s a real contribution, and it holds the potential for getting steadily better over time. Kudos to MDRC.....