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State Responses to COVID-19 – Implications for Student Success Funding and Promise Programs

Began in August 2020

COVID-19, and related enrollment and budget fluctuations, have caused dramatic shifts across higher education. As states struggle to enroll and retain students in the face of COVID-19, decisions about whether and how to sustain, refine, or expand Outcomes-Based or Student Success Funding (SSF/PBF/OBF) policies and Promise programs vary. Further, the extent to which states commit to closing postsecondary racial equity gaps via state appropriations and financial aid in the face of these pressures varies as well.

Research for Action is engaged in an 18-month mixed-methods study to better understand about how state appropriations and financial aid policies are shifting because of COVID-19 and to examine the equity implications of policy shifts for systems and institutions that serve higher populations of Black, Latinx and low-income students. As the first phase of this work, RFA conducted a 50-state policy scan. The primary research questions of the scan were:

  • How have COVID-19 and related budget fluctuations impacted state SFF/PBF/OBF policies and Promise programs currently in place?
  • How, if at all, have shifts in SFF/PBF/OBF policies and Promise programs affected the level or type of support provided to sectors and institutions that serve vulnerable students?

The following two briefs summarize our findings:

RFA researchers will continue to track the impact of COVID-19 on SFF/PBF/OBF models and Promise programs through targeted qualitative interviews and a second policy scan. This work is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and builds upon past research examining the implications and effects of outcomes-based funding and Promise programs.


Related Publications


State of Student Success Funding During COVID-19

RFA found that over one third of states running SFF/PBF/OBF models in FY20 either implemented a new hold harmless provision, extended a FY20 hold harmless provision that had been set to expire, or paused their…


State of Promise Programs During COVID-19

Overall, more than half of statewide Promise programs made changes to program components in response to COVID-19. Of the 15 programs that made changes, we found 11 programs adjusted eligibility requirements, with many relaxing requirements…
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