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IES Grant

Title: College Completion Network Lead
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Bettinger, Eric Awardee: American Institutes for Research (AIR)
Program: Scalable Strategies to Support College Completion Network      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (1/1/2017-12/31/2021) Award Amount: $1,999,122
Type: Other Goal Award Number: R305N170003

Co-Principal Investigators: Trey Miller and Lisa Shimmel

Role: Network Lead

Related Network Teams: Nudges to the Finish Line: Experimental Interventions to Prevent Late College Departure (PI: Benjamin Castleman, R305N160026); The Men of Color College Achievement (MoCCA) Project (PI: Lashawn Richburg-Hayes, R0305N160025); Affording Degree Completion: A Study of Completion Grants at Accessible Public Universities (PI: Sara Goldrick-Rab, R305N170020); A Scalable Growth Mindset Intervention to Raise Achievement and Persistence in Community College (PI: Gregory Walton, R305A150253); An Experimental Evaluation of Corequisite Developmental Education in Texas (PI: Trey Miller, R305H170085)

A Research Network involves several teams of researchers who are working together to address a critical education problem or issue. The objective is to encourage information sharing, build new knowledge, and assist policymakers and practitioners to strengthen education policies and programs and improve student education outcomes. The College Completion Network is evaluating promising strategies for moving students at open- and broad-access postsecondary institutions beyond college enrollment and entry-level courses to degree completion. Each network research team is evaluating a specific intervention strategy.

Purpose: The College Completion Network Lead provides the organizational structure needed to ensure that the College Completion Network runs smoothly and accomplishes its goals and objectives. The Network Lead coordinates annual meetings of the entire Network as well as ongoing working group meetings focused on crucial completion-related topics. The Lead will conduct independent research to inform the network and the broader public, including a gap analysis of current college completion research and practice, and a synthesis of findings from NCER-funded projects focusing on college completion. The Lead will disseminate findings from Research Teams by maintaining a high-quality website, assisting Teams with presenting their research on the website, and by facilitating additional collaborative dissemination activities among teams.

Network Leadership Activities: The leadership activities of the College Completion Network Lead comprise six primary functions:

  1. Network Meetings. The Network Lead will host two in-person meetings in year 1, and one in-person meeting in years 2 through 5. The Network Lead will also coordinate the meetings and activities of six working groups, each of which will address a strategy for increasing college completion.
  2. Independent Research to Inform the Network. The Network Lead will conduct a systematic review of the literature on at least one intervention strategy designed to improve college students' academic performance, persistence, and degree completion at open- and broad-access institutions.
  3. A Network Website. The Network Lead will develop and maintain a Network website to support communication among Network team members and disseminate research findings to policymakers, practitioners, and the broader public. The website will serve as a clearinghouse for the Network's resources, research papers, and products.
  4. Supplementary Activities. The Network Lead will collaborate with Network members to identify topics and issues suitable for supplementary activities (e.g., research and/or dissemination) which will be jointly undertaken by Network members. The Lead will coordinate applications to IES for supplementary projects, and when projects are funded, will coordinate the work of Network Teams to complete the approved work.
  5. A Synthesis of Network Findings. The Network Lead will conduct a synthesis of key findings from the evaluations completed by the Research Teams, as well as other relevant IES-funded postsecondary research projects. The synthesis will categorize and describe the research funded to date, discuss the similarities and differences in findings across studies, and identify future steps for research.
  6. Research Products and Dissemination. The Network Lead will draw upon advice from a Stakeholder Advisory Group (including policymakers and college administrators) to target findings and research products to specific audiences likely to be interested in them. The stakeholders will help each of the working groups distill and hone their products' key messages. The Network Lead will ensure that the final research products (e.g. briefs, reports, and online resources) are accurate, clear, and accessible to a range of users. Target audiences will include policymakers, practitioners, and researchers. Separate products may be produced with each audience in mind.  

In addition to these six core functions, the Network Lead will provide opportunities for participation and leadership by early career scholars, including post-doctoral investigators and graduate students, to help develop long-term research capacity in the field.

Products: The Network Lead will engage in ongoing dissemination activities with other members of the Network to develop products that explain factors that support students' progression through college and inform policy and practice. Products will include the Network website, briefs and reports for policymakers and practitioners, infographics, videos, peer-reviewed publications, and presentations for a range of stakeholders.

Project Website:

The College Completion Network comprises five Network Research Teams and a Network Lead, as follows:

College Completion Network Lead
Principal Investigator: Eric Bettinger (Stanford University)
The Network Lead convenes the full Network and working groups, conducts independent research, publicizes team activities through a website and social media, and synthesizes team findings.

Nudges to the Finish Line: Experimental Interventions to Prevent Late College Departure
Principal Investigators: Benjamin Castleman (University of Virginia), Eric Bettinger (Stanford University)
Partners: City University of New York, Virginia Community College System, Ohio University, U. Washington-Tacoma
The Nudges text messaging campaign targets students who have completed at least half of the credits needed to complete their degree goal, and sends personalized text messages with information, reminders, encouragement, and guidance designed to help students achieve their goal.

The Men of Color College Achievement (MoCCA) Project
Principal Investigators: Lashawn Richburg-Hayes (Insight Policy Research)
Partner: Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC):
In partnership with administrators and staff at CCBC, the research team is working to refine and evaluate a college success course combined with a set of services designed to boost college success for male students of color.

Affording Degree Completion: A Study of Completion Grants at Accessible Public Universities
Principal Investigators: Sara Goldrick-Rab and Douglas Webber (Temple), Shari Garmise and Travis York (APLU)
Partner: Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
Completion grants target students within one year of completing a Bachelor's degree, and combine a modest amount of financial aid ($500-$1500) with the requirement to make use of campus-based supports (e.g. academic advising), and a commitment from the student to complete their degree.

A Scalable Growth Mindset Intervention to Raise Achievement and Persistence in Community College
Principal Investigators: Gregory Walton, Carol Dweck, and Thomas Dee (Stanford University)
Partners: Santa Monica College, Ivy Tech Community Colleges of Indiana
This short intervention, assigned to students in developmental and gateway math courses, begins with an article about how brain functioning improves when students confront new challenges, engage multiple learning strategies, and seek out advice from peers and instructors. Students internalize the article's message by writing advice to a friend based on it.

An Experimental Evaluation of Accelerated Pathways through Developmental Education
Principal Investigators: Trey Miller (AIR) and Lindsay Daugherty (RAND)
Partner: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
The acceleration intervention applies to students who score somewhat (but not far) below Texas' college-readiness threshold. Colleges place these students directly into college-level English courses coupled with one hour per week of additional support (e.g. a weekly lab or required tutoring).