MDRC, the College Promise Campaign, and SHEEO Launch the College Promise Success Initiative

Contacts: John Hutchins, MDRC, 212-340-8604, [email protected]

(New York, March 1, 2018) — MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, is partnering with the College Promise Campaign and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Association to launch the College Promise Success Initiative. With anchor funding from Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, this initiative will provide technical assistance and continuous improvement and research support to college promise and free college programs. The focus of the initiative will be helping promise programs use research-based best practices to improve students’ academic outcomes.

Most of the nation’s more than 200 college promise programs, often associated with the “free college” movement, fund tuition and fees to help low-income and other eligible students enter postsecondary education. Yet tuition is just one piece of the puzzle. Most low-income students confront multiple obstacles to success once they enroll in college, resulting in too many of them dropping out and being unable to take full advantage of the available financial support. 

Beginning in the spring of 2018, MDRC will run a series of open-access webinars covering topics based on its nearly two decades of research in postsecondary education. Programs can learn from MDRC and its partners to strengthen their current operations, help their specific populations of students succeed, and implement best practices in areas like behavioral science and student services.

“We’re very pleased to launch this new initiative to support the college promise and free college programs across the country that are opening doors to postsecondary education for so many students,” said Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC. “By augmenting students’ college experiences with a range of evidence-backed academic and other support services, colleges should be better able to deliver on this extraordinary promise.”

“Recognizing that funding tuition and fees must be coupled with high-impact teaching and student support practices, the College Promise Campaign is pleased to support MDRC’s new College Promise Success Initiative to provide evidence-based strategies and tools to increase degree and certificate completion for hardworking students,” said Martha Kanter, Executive Director of the College Promise Campaign.

“What’s clear from successful promise programs is that they’re much more than last-dollar scholarships. The supports and services that are built into these programs are critical to helping students succeed once enrolled,” said Andy Carlson, SHEEO’s Vice President of Finance Policy and Member Services.

The College Promise Success Initiative builds on MDRC’s successful partnership with the Detroit Regional Chamber in creating the Detroit Promise Path, which added student success components to the existing Detroit Promise scholarship. MDRC’s evaluation found that the program had a sizable impact on enrollment in the second semester and on full-time enrollment in the first and second semesters. Detroit’s experience makes clear that strengthening promise programs can help students stay in college.

In addition to MDRC’s continuing project with Detroit Promise, the College Promise Success Initiative is working with the Los Angeles Community College District, the Community College of Rhode Island, the Flint Promise, the Richmond (California) Promise, and Portland Community College to enhance their college promise programs.

MDRC’s College Promise Success Initiative is funded by Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates. Work with Detroit is funded by the Ford Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, and the Kellogg Foundation. Work with Los Angeles is funded by a grant from the state of California.

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Headquartered in New York City and Oakland, CA, MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization with more than 40 years of experience designing and evaluating education and social policy initiatives.