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Postsecondary Opportunity Programs: Defining and Improving an Educational Policy Innovation


Elizabeth Stransky 

Policy Analyst, WISCAPE
University of Wisconsin-Madison


For a variety of reasons, higher education applications, enrollments, and graduation rates are falling short of desired levels, and this deficit impairs economic and community viability. In response, concerned stakeholders have enacted policies and programs designed to confront this problem. Called postsecondary opportunity programs (POPs), these state, county, municipal, institutional, and private programs and partnerships aim to increase educational attainment by confronting the barriers to postsecondary access, persistence, and success. Many of these programs identify educational attainment as a means to economic and community development.

POPs are becoming increasingly prevalent, and while a great deal of policy innovation and diffusion has occurred in this area in recent years, no clear definition of these programs exists. In this brief, WISCAPE constructs a POPs definition to help researchers and policymakers group, describe, compare, analyze, and evaluate these programs. This brief provides an introductory overview of POPs nationwide, including program goals, eligibility guidelines, benefits to recipients, and funding sources, and offers recommendations for consideration when creating new or strengthening existing POPs.


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