New Approaches to Improving College Access, Persistence, and Success

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New Approaches to Improving College Access, Persistence, and Success: Three Exemplary Postsecondary Opportunity Programs


Elizabeth Vaade

Policy Analyst, WISCAPE
University of Wisconsin-Madison

J. Edward Connery

Project Assistant, WISCAPE
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Bo McCready

Project Assistant, WISCAPE
University of Wisconsin-Madison


Many factors prevent individuals—underrepresented students in particular—from enrolling in college and pursuing a postsecondary degree. As a result, admissions applications, enrollments, and graduation rates fall short of desired levels, and this deficit impairs economic and community viability. This problem is especially pressing in the Midwest, where lagging economies and low degree attainment rates hinder community development efforts.

In response, concerned stakeholders throughout the region have established postsecondary opportunity programs (POPs)—state, county, municipal, institutional, and private programs and partnerships that aim to increase educational attainment by confronting barriers to postsecondary access, persistence, and success. Many of these programs identify educational attainment as a means to economic and community development.

This report, the second in an occasional series published by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) called Promising Practices: What Works in the Midwest, offers a definition for these programs to help researchers and policymakers describe, compare, analyze, and evaluate them. The report also focuses on three exemplary programs—the Illinois Promise at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the state-run All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship; and Campus and Community: Together for Good, a partnership between Finlandia University and Hancock Public Schools in Hancock, Michigan—providing brief descriptions of each, the characteristics that establish them as promising practices, and the lessons they offer other programs.


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