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Program Details

Grant Program: Postsecondary and Adult Education
Contacts: Dr. Meredith Larson
(202) 245-7037

Dr. James Benson
(202) 245-8333

REQUEST FOR APPLICATIONS: PDF File FY 2018 RFA (PDF: 1.8 MB) 2018 Competition Closed

The Postsecondary and Adult Education (PSAE) topic supports research that will lead to better student education outcomes at the college level (i.e., students in grades 13 through 16 working on certificates or associateís or bachelorís degrees) and in adult education programs (e.g., students in adult English language programs or adult literacy programs including Adult Basic Education, Adult Secondary Education, and GED preparation programs).

PSAE research addresses a wide range of student outcomes including student access to, persistence in, progress through, and completion of postsecondary and adult education programs as well as improving specific academic outcomes for students in developmental education, adult education, gateway science and math courses, and introductory composition courses.

The long-term outcome of this research is to establish an array of tools and strategies (e.g., practices, assessments, programs, policies) that have been documented to be effective for improving education outcomes of postsecondary students at the college level and adult learners.

Between 2007- 2017, NCER invested over 95 million dollars in the PSAE topic to support 59 research projects.

Types of Projects
16 Exploration Projects
11 Development and Innovation Projects
28 Efficacy and Replication Projects
1 Effectiveness/Scale-up Project
3 Measurement Projects

The PSAE program funded its first six research projects in FY 2011. However, as early as 2007, NCER supported postsecondary and adult education research through various topic areas including Reading and Writing, and Interventions for Struggling Adolescent and Adult Readers and Writers, Middle and High School Reform, a separate Postsecondary topic, and a separate Adult Education topic area.

By joining the postsecondary education and adult education research foci into one topic area, NCER acknowledged the complex and sometimes overlapping paths adult learners travel when pursuing education throughout their lives.

In addition to emphasizing postsecondary and adult education research through the PSAE topic area, NCER continues to fund these types of research through the National Research and Development Centers program, the Partnerships and Collaborations Focused on Problems of Practice or Policy, through the Research Networks Focused on Critical Problems of Education Policy and Practice program

Why is This Topic Unique?
PSAE grantees examine the full spectrum of student outcomes in settings ranging from community-based adult literacy programs to universities. PSAE-funded researchers have projects that range from basic cognitive processes, to adultsí learning of core mathematical concepts, to federal financial aid policy implications.

Unlike other NCER topic areas, PSAE allows for students with disabilities to be the primary population of the study. By allowing for this population to be a focus for PSAE research, NCER is helping to support research on students with disabilities to supplement the research that NCSER is authorized to fund.

Types of Research Supported
The majority of research funded through PSAE has focused on postsecondary settings and students (55studies) and few have focused on adult education settings and students (4 studies). The plurality of the research has tested the efficacy of interventions.

graph of goals for Postsec grants

All the adult education research funded through PSAE has, to date, focused on reading outcomes. Postsecondary research funded through PSAE has focused on identifying, developing and evaluating strategies for, among other things,

  • Helping students to academically prepare for college and make the transition from high school to college;
  • Providing college-going information and assistance to students and their families; and
  • Reforming developmental education, helping students to understand how to finance college and access financial aid, improving studentsí engagement in college, and improving the quality of curriculum and instruction that students receive in college.