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College and University Commitments to Student Access and Success: An Overview of Institutional Postsecondary Opportunity Programs


Elizabeth Vaade

Policy Analyst, WISCAPE
University of Wisconsin-Madison


The federal and state governments are placing greater emphasis on postsecondary attainment while concerns about rising college costs for students and families surge. Both groups are calling on institutions to do more to help improve student access and achievement rates. Further, recent research and policy have put pressure on institutions to admit more students (particularly those from underrepresented groups), address rising tuition, and help students persist to completion. The recession has also led institutions to think of new or enhanced means of contributing to local economic development.

To meet these latest demands and roles, postsecondary institutions have begun designing and implementing postsecondary opportunity programs (POPs). These programs and partnerships aim to increase educational attainment by confronting the barriers to postsecondary access, persistence, and success; some specifically identify educational attainment as a means to economic and community development.

POPs are administered at the state, county, municipal, district, institutional, or private level. This brief focuses on institutional POPs, which are situated at the center of postsecondary learning and therefore uniquely positioned to address the nation’s educational attainment challenges. It explores the goals, eligibility requirements, benefits, and revenue sources of 22 institutional POPs nationwide and offers four recommendations for institutional POPs administrators to consider as they move forward.


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