Dr. James Benson
In FY 2016, the Institute initiated a new grant program, Research Networks Focused on Critical Problems of Policy and Practice, to focus resources and attention on education problems or issues that are high priorities for the nation, and to create both a structure and process for researchers who are working on these issues to share ideas, build new knowledge, and strengthen their research and dissemination capacity. Each Network consists of several research teams working on the same issue, and is coordinated by a Network Lead. The ultimate objective of each Network is to advance the field’s understanding of a problem or issue beyond what an individual research project or team is able to do on its own, and to assist policymakers and practitioners in using this information to strengthen education policies and programs and improve student education outcomes.
The Scalable Strategies to Support College Completion Network (College Completion Network) is focused on the problem of low college completion rates. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that only about half of the degree-seeking students who enter open- and broad-access institutions (including community colleges and four-year colleges and universities that accept 75 percent or more of their applicants) earn a degree or certificate within six years. The College Completion Network will help such institutions develop and evaluate interventions designed to increase degree attainment. The Network will concentrate on interventions that are currently operating or have the potential to operate on a large scale. To date, the College Completion Network comprises two Network Research Teams: the first team will focus on refining and evaluating a portion of the University System of Georgia’s African American Male Initiative (PI: Lashawn Richburg-Hayes) and the second research team will develop and evaluate a text-messaging intervention for students who have completed at least half of their college course work yet may be at risk of leaving college, with the goal of promoting behaviors that will lead to these students completing their college degrees (PI: Benjamin Castleman).
The Institute anticipates adding other research teams to the College Completion Network in FY 2017.