Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: An Intervention Return on Investment (ROI) Tool for Community Colleges
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Weiss, Michael Awardee: MDRC
Program: Unsolicited and Other Awards      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (07/01/2020 – 06/30/2022) Award Amount: $390,419.00
Type: Other Goal Award Number: R305U200007

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to calculate the return on investment before a college or system decides to implement an effective intervention for their students. Postsecondary research over the last 20 years has made great strides in identifying effective interventions and estimating their cost-effectiveness. The main objective of the proposed project is to provide a third piece of information critical to college administrators' decision-making about intervention adoption: an estimate of the revenue generated by the intervention, if adopted at their college.

Interventions that increase retention rates, credits attempted, credit accumulation, and/or graduation rates have the potential to generate tuition revenue and state funding for colleges. However, colleges and states differ in their tuition costs and funding formulas. Thus, cost and revenue information from one locale may be of limited use to administrators in other settings who are considering adopting an intervention.

The proposed project will create an interactive website application that enables college administrators to estimate the costs and revenues associated with a specific intervention at their institution. This ROI tool will build upon MDRC's prototype tool by including 20 interventions that MDRC has previously evaluated, integrating funding and tuition data from 35 states, enabling users to input impact and cost estimates from non-MDRC evaluations, and making the tool widely available and user friendly.

This project aligns with IES's SEER principle focused on understanding costs by disseminating cost estimates from interventions that MDRC has previously studied. This project also aligns with the SEER principle of supporting the scaling of promising strategies by increasing awareness that the costs of effective interventions can be at least partly offset by generated revenue and by providing college administrators with a clearer understanding of the amount of revenue a given intervention might generate at their institution. This intervention ROI tool for colleges will serve as a complement to the student ROI tools being developed with funding from ED/IES Small Business Innovation Research grants 91990020C0088 and 91990020C0089.

Phase 1: Data analysis. The team will analyze three areas of data. It will re-estimate the impacts of MDRC interventions to account for benefits that accrued only to students who remained within the institution that implemented the intervention. The team will model state funding formulas by reviewing public finance documents and consulting with system leaders. Also, the team will estimate intervention costs by standardizing cost estimation techniques across the included MDRC studies and adjusting for regional difference in input costs.

Phase 2: Tool construction. The team will use a process known as "wireframing," where they map out the various paths that an administrator could follow through the tool, and sketch how each step should appear to him/her. The team will program the tool using an established programming language, and an internal quality controller will review and debug the program code as necessary. Prior to public release, the tool will go through an internal testing process to ensure that all functions work as intended. There will also be a feedback mechanism built into the application for end users to report bugs.

Phase 3: Tool roll-out and dissemination. The ROI tool will be freely available on an MDRC webpage as an interactive application, along with supporting documentation and a video demo. The demo will talk users through the tool and illustrate the various options for customizing parameters to match their intervention and institution. The team will use multiple dissemination strategies to increase the number of college administrators and researchers who are aware of and take advantage of the tool. The team will disseminate the tool via MDRC's email list and Twitter account and through networks such as the Scalable Strategies to Support College Completion Network, the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness, and Strong Start to Finish. MDRC will use the tool with partner colleges and state higher education agencies from across the United States to help administrators plan for the financial sustainability of their programs.