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August 4, 2020

Do Promise Programs Really Work? Yes.

Rosye Cloud discusses new research findings focused on student completion and debt.

This week, we discuss the release of a new College Promise Research Brief -- by Russell Porter, Dalila Salazar, and Sanfrena Britt of Texas A&M University - Central Texas -- that highlights the first-of-its-kind College Promise Predictor of Students’ Completion Rates (CPPSCR) pilot study.

Rosye Cloud, a College Promise senior leader, reflects on the impact of College Promise programs and key findings from the study.

As a senior leader with College Promise, first-generation American, Latina, and mom to a middle school student, I advocate for the expansion of the College Promise movement across the country, working to provide funding for postsecondary education for hard-working students and to ensure those students have access to the support they need to thrive. We know that workers need critical knowledge and skills to acquire quality jobs and that students are facing significant barriers to education, but many wonder if the solutions we propose are a key component to a national solution. Are College Promise programs working? Are students graduating? What is their economic outlook?

In my work with College Promise, I hear from students serving as caregivers for ailing family members and from first generation college students struggling to break out of poverty. I speak with adults seeking skills to remain gainfully employed in “one” job, instead of knitting together multiple part-time jobs. I listen to parents working to better their lot in life so their children may live with less uncertainty. Whatever their story—whether they are recent high school graduates moving away from home for the first time, Americans with disabilities seeking new opportunities, or foster youths who have aged out of official programs—all of these students share a common vision. They all see training and education as a critical step in being successful, independent, active members of their communities.

And they’re right.

The College Promise team hears countless stories of success from the 300+ Promise Programs across the country and wanted to know if the programs are nationally achieving what we all set out to do: improve outcomes for students. For answers to these critical questions we turned to researchers at Texas A&M University - Central Texas, who conducted a first-of-its-kind pilot study to explore various measures of effectiveness of Promise Programs.

It is with all students in mind, today, I am proud to announce the findings of the first ever national comparison of College Promise programs and their positive impact, The College Promise Predictor of Students’ Completion Rates (CPPSCR) pilot study. The A&M study conducted a regression analysis of 29 College Promise programs across the United States, comprising both community colleges and universities that had at least 4 years of operational history, and against a similar control group.

“Regardless of student category, College Promise programs demonstrate approximately 45% higher completion rates for students than non-Promise institutions of higher learning. ”

— CPPSCR Research Brief

In a research brief authored by Russell Porter, PH.D, ED.D; Dalila Salazar, PH.D; and Sanfrena Britt, ED.D, findings indicate that College Promise programs contribute to higher graduation and completion rates for students in American colleges and universities. College Promise programs demonstrated a positive impact on both Pell and non-Pell students. These findings provide a window into the significant support College Promise programs provide to all students. Beyond tuition, College Promise programs are focused on deepening their understanding of their student population, the challenges and barriers they face in pursuit of program completion, in demand careers, and creating critical supportive programs that assist students through completion of education goals.

College Promise students from the study have a significantly lower student loan default rate.

The same research study found that College Promise programs in the United States contribute to lower default rates for students in colleges and universities associated with College Promise programs versus students in colleges and universities not associated with College Promise programs. The default rates of College Promise students were shown to be 19% lower. Low default rates have been shown to be leading indicators of economic stability of students.

The results of this pilot study demonstrate that College Promise programs are improving the lives of students. Higher completion rates and lower student default rates indicate that Promise program students are succeeding in college and beyond.

These findings come at a critical time as our nation battles with the impacts of a global pandemic, acceleration of job destruction, and major shifts in workplace automation. Nationally we are experiencing a significantly higher unemployment rate than years past. Most Americans without a verified credential or degree find themselves increasingly unable to find employment options that provide social and economic mobility. The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),  states that high school graduates comprise approximately 5% of teleworking employees versus college graduates who comprise the majority at 54%. America’s youth (under age 25) continue to face almost double the unemployment rate than the average American worker. Historically, national economic hardship has encouraged Americans to seek higher education and training.  

“With over 350 programs across the United States, we are witnessing the emergence of a scalable model that can bolster our ability to connect our citizens to the American dream. ”

— Rosye Cloud, College Promise

The College Promise movement has catalyzed the pursuit of post-secondary education with a student-centric framework that balances no-cost tuition strategies alongside meaningful student support services. As Promise programs gain maturity, research validates their significant impact in bolstering completion rates and reduction of student loan default rates. With over 350 programs across the United States, we are witnessing the emergence of a scalable model that can bolster our ability to connect our citizens to the American dream.

Now more than ever, we want students to connect to programs that are committed to successful student outcomes. We must revisit the available pathways to achieving this dream, much like 100 years ago we determined that universal high school would lead America into an age of prosperity. This is the heart of the College Promise movement, a commitment to support students in pursuit of the American Dream. The fact that this dream still appears unattainable for far too many Americans is why Promise programs are offering millions of students opportunities to pursue certificates, credentials, and college degrees. My hope is that prospective students seek out College Promise programs and consider them when engaging in their college and career planning, because we know these programs work.

For more information on the impact of College Promise programs on graduation and loan default rates, read the full research brief.

To find Promise Programs near you, check out our Catalog of Local and State College Promise Programs.

Rosye Cloud leads strategy and innovation for the College Promise movement and oversees expansion efforts for College Promise. She has served in multiple senior positions including the White House, Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Dept. of Defense, and internationally in support of NATO. Cloud has also dedicated herself to addressing interdisciplinary domestic policy challenges faced by the U.S. Her collective impact work led to the design and implementation of student accelerated learning programs, training, and community collaboration which support over one million beneficiaries. She has graduate degrees and postgraduate certificates from the National Defense University, Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan, UVA Darden, and the University of Oklahoma.

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