College Completion Fund Project


For states to meet their growing economic and workforce needs, they need to help more people earn postsecondary degrees or credentials. However, many students—including students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and students assessed as needing developmental (remedial) courses—do not receive the services and support they need to complete college. Targeted investments in policies and practices with evidence of supporting student success could help more of them succeed.

With support from several philanthropic organizations, MDRC has collaborated with the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), The Education Trust (Ed Trust), and The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) on a body of work related to the proposed College Completion Fund initially included in President Biden’s American Families Plan. The College Completion Fund demonstrates renewed federal interest in increasing postsecondary students’ success and could provide significant funding for states and colleges to adopt evidence-based policies and practices.

The project’s four main components include:

  1. Outreach to federal policymakers to inform the College Completion Fund (led by SHEEO and Ed Trust). This component aims to ensure that federal investments fund programs and practices backed by strong research evidence, build on states’ existing student success efforts, and advance racial equity.
  2. A College Completion Strategy Guide to inform policy and practice (led by MDRC, with support from SHEEO, Ed Trust, and TICAS). The Strategy Guide is a series of policy briefs authored by experts in postsecondary education policy research, designed for policymakers and leaders of postsecondary institutions who are looking to invest in evidence-based student success strategies. The briefs summarize research evidence on major topics in postsecondary education, offer considerations for populations and institutions of interest, and provide lessons to help policymakers advance evidence-based strategies.
  3. Technical assistance provided by SHEEO, with support from MDRC, to state higher education agencies to support their efforts to invest in evidence-based retention and completion strategies. This component includes a series of learning sessions for SHEEO members, in which College Completion Strategy Guide authors summarize the research evidence on increasing college completion, and state higher education agencies share lessons from their own student success efforts.

An advisory group to ensure that multiple stakeholders with different perspectives help shape this work and that the effort maintains a strong focus on equity throughout (led by Ed Trust).