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College Access and Success Projects and Publications

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Say Yes to Education: RFA’s Five-Year Evaluation of the Cleveland Chapter

Say Yes to Education, a scholarship guarantee program, recently adopted the City of Cleveland, guaranteeing a last-dollar college scholarship and wraparound support services for K-12 students and their families. As the research partner for this…

An Evaluation of the Lumina Foundation’s Focus Areas in Postsecondary Education

RFA is partnering with Frontline Solutions and Engage R+D to track how work is progressing within and across Lumina Foundation’s Focus Areas for improving postsecondary credential attainment rates.  The evaluation will document lessons learned as…

Examining the Career Choices of College Students of Color

RFA is currently examining how African American college students decide on career paths in the field of finance, and how the postsecondary and employment sectors can better address their needs. This exploratory work for the…

Research Support for the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association

RFA provided qualitative research support to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) as it engaged in data collection to inform a new strategic direction for the organization. Work included assessing state higher education…

State and Local College Promise Programs: Examining Policy and Practice

Statewide College Promise programs are becoming increasingly common as college costs and student debt rise. Yet to date there has been little to no systematic research that closely examines how these programs are constructed or…

Evaluation of Jobs for the Future’s Student Success Center Initiative

In partnership with Jobs for the Future, which serves as the intermediary for the Gates Foundation’s Student Success Initiative, RFA is serving as one of the evaluators of 14 Student Success Centers dedicated to coordinating…

Expanding the Knowledge Base on State-Level Postsecondary Outcomes-Based Funding

RFA is conducting a comprehensive analysis of state-level postsecondary Outcomes-Based Funding policy in six states. This mixed-methods evaluation includes a policy analysis to develop a nuanced picture of the parameters of OBF in each state;…

Examining Extended Learning Opportunities in New Hampshire: A Statewide Evaluation

RFA conducted a two-year, mixed-methods study of New Hampshire’s extended learning opportunities (ELO) initiative. Funded by the Nellie Mae Educational Foundation, the study focused on assessing the implementation and effectiveness of ELO on college and…

Examining Reforms in Postsecondary Student Placement Policies

For several years, RFA has been examining how postsecondary systems and institutions have reformed their approach to student placement in first-year classes. Until recently it was common practice to place students based on a cut…

Examining Assessment and Placement Exam Reforms in Community Colleges

Given the barrier that developmental education can present in students' timely progress to degree completion, RFA is examining assessment and placement reform efforts across five states--California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia--and the implementation of…

Amplifying Success Through Intermediaries: An Evaluation of the Role of New Profit, Inc. in Supporting National College Access and Success Organizations

RFA conducted a multi-year evaluation of New Profit’s federal Social Innovation Fund grant. Through it, New Profit served as an intermediary for six national college access and success organizations, including YouthBuild, Single Stop, Year Up,…

An Evaluation of How Science Leadership Academy Graduates and Preparedness for Postsecondary STEM Majors

RFA was commissioned by The Franklin Institute and Science Leadership Academy in spring 2011 to research how the first cohort of graduates from SLA fared as they entered postsecondary institutions. This study has a special…

An Evaluation of the Philadelphia Youth Network’s GED-to-College Initiative

In October 2009, Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) launched a pilot GED to College (GTC) initiative. Four unique providers, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, District 1199c Training and Upgrading Fund, People for People, Inc. (PFP), and Youth…

An Evaluation of the Philadelphia Youth Network’s Student Success Centers

The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) is overseeing 11 Student Success Centers, which are located in the city's comprehensive high schools and designed to assist students to get and stay on track to college. RFA conducted…

Increasing the College Access and Retention Capacity of Community-Based Organizations

The College Access Foundation distributes scholarships to California college students via an extensive network of community-based organizations (CBOs). RFA worked with the Foundation to examine CBO capacity to serve as a community resource for information…

An Evaluation of the Philadelphia Say Yes to Education Program (SYTE)

Say Yes to Education (SYTE) is a tuition guarantee program that provides students and families from low-income neighborhoods with college or other postsecondary training. RFA is collaborating with the SYTE staff to conduct a multi-year…

An Evaluation of Philadelphia’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP): School District of Philadelphia

GEAR UP is a national initiative whose major goal is to increase significantly the proportion of low-income students successfully continuing their education at institutions of higher education. RFA worked in partnership with the School District…

Affordability, Access, Success: A Framework for Examining Statewide College Promise Programs

Are statewide college Promise programs an effective way to increase college access and success? It's hard to say.  While these programs are becoming more common, they vary widely along a number of dimensions.  RFA's new…

Statewide College Promise Programs: Balancing Affordability, Access, and Student Success

State-level postsecondary policymaking is daunting. Policymakers navigate through myriad fiscal, political, and ideological constraints and opportunities as they strive to address pressing state concerns or goals. While researchers and advocates may point to “perfect” policy…

The Case of Delaware’s SEED Scholarship: A Well-Established but Lesser-Known Promise Program

Research for Action has studied statewide Promise programs since 2017, with in-depth analysis in four states—Delaware, Nevada, Oregon, and Tennessee. Our research in these states includes an extensive review of legislative and policy documents; 146…

The Case of Nevada Promise: Promise Replication in a Different State Context

Research for Action has studied statewide Promise programs since 2017, with in-depth analysis in four states—Delaware, Nevada, Oregon, and Tennessee. Our research in these states includes an extensive review of legislative and policy documents; 146…

The Case of Oregon Promise: An Early Adopter Focused on Broadening Access

Research for Action has studied statewide Promise programs since 2017, with in-depth analysis in four states—Delaware, Nevada, Oregon, and Tennessee. Our research in these states includes an extensive review of legislative and policy documents; 146…

The Case of Tennessee Promise: A Uniquely Comprehensive Promise Program

Research for Action has studied statewide Promise programs since 2017, with in-depth analysis in four states—Delaware, Nevada, Oregon, and Tennessee. Our research in these states includes an extensive review of legislative and policy documents; 146…

Research Brief: Measuring the Effects of Outcomes-Based Funding on Certificate Production: Challenges, Inconsistencies and Recommendations for Future Research

Outcomes-based funding (OBF) has become an increasingly common tool for states seeking to improve student outcomes, and the inclusion of certificates in OBF policies has been subject to considerable scrutiny. But studying the effects of OBF…

Implementation and Impact of Outcomes-Based Funding in Tennessee

Outcomes-based funding (OBF) is a term used to define state and system-level higher education funding policies linking public higher education dollars to key student outcomes such as credit completion, retention and graduation (Snyder, 2016). Outcomes-based…

Implementation and Impact of Outcomes-Based Funding in Indiana

Outcomes-based funding (OBF) is a term used to define state and system-level higher education funding policies linking public higher education dollars to key student outcomes such as credit completion, retention and graduation (Snyder, 2016). Outcomes-based…

Examining OBF Policy Implementation and Student-Level Effects in Tennessee, Ohio, and Indiana

From 2014-2016, Research for Action (RFA) conducted a comparative, mixed methods study in Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio to: examine OBF state-level policy formation and implementation; explore institutional-level implementation and identify contextual factors that affect it;…

Implementation and Impact of Outcomes-Based Funding in Three States: High-Level Findings

Outcomes-based funding (OBF) is a term used to describe state and system-level higher education funding policies linking public dollars to key student outcomes such as credit completion, retention and graduation. Outcomes-based funding models are a…

College Affordability in PA: How Did We Get Here, and What Can Be Done?

A postsecondary credential is quickly becoming the only reliable gateway to the middle class. A college certificate or degree is associated with higher household income and stability, better health, and a stronger, more competitive economy.…

Development and Implementation of Multiple Measures for College Placement Across States and Systems: Phase 1 and Phase 2 Report Summary

Research shows that between 24 and 33 percent of students are misplaced when entering college, and therefore required to complete unnecessary developmental education courses that hinder postsecondary completion. More specifically, nearly 40 percent of community…

Lessons from Multiple Measures Reforms across Six Two-Year Colleges in Three States: Phase 2 Report

This report is a companion to Research for Action’s (RFA’s) earlier examination of the policy context in three states—California, North Carolina, and Wisconsin—where Multiple Measures reforms are underway in different forms. In this document, we…

From Policy to Practice: Tracing the Development and Implementation of Placement and Diagnostic Assessment across States, Systems, and Community Colleges — Phase I Report

Nationwide, postsecondary policymakers and administrators are responding to emerging research on whether placement exams are reliable gauges of students’ readiness for credit-bearing coursework. Specifically, the widespread use of placement tests may belie their effectiveness in…

Tracing the Development of Multiple Measures for College Placement across States and Systems

Research shows that between 24 and 33 percent of students are “misplaced” when entering college and therefore required to complete developmental education courses that hinder postsecondary completion. More specifically, nearly 40 percent of  community college…

From Policy to Practice: Tracing the Development and Implementation of Placement and Diagnostic Assessment across States, Systems, and Community Colleges — Phase 2 Report

National initiatives to raise K-12 standards and align them to postsecondary entrance requirements have prompted states and/or state postsecondary systems to enact policies to improve alignment among postsecondary readiness standards, postsecondary placement and diagnostic exams,…

From Policy to Practice: Tracing the Development and Implementation of Placement and Diagnostic Assessments across States, Systems, and Community Colleges — Phase 1 and Phase 2 Summary

Given the barrier that developmental education can present in students’ timely progress to degree completion and the variation in its effectiveness, Research for Action (RFA) examined assessment and placement reform efforts across five leading states—California,…