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Innovation Challenge Gives
States a Stake in Completion
BY TABITHA WHISSEMORE
omplete College america’s (CCA’s) new grant program,
Completion Innovation Challenge, gives states the oppor-
tunity to influence the completion agenda. Ten $1 million
grants will be awarded to states with the most innova-
tive statewide strategies to substantially improve college
The grant, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, doesn’t limit states
to simply exploring completion strategies. It also provides “jet fuel” so plans can be
fully developed and deployed, said Tom Sugar, senior vice president at CCA.
Its focus: to improve college completion numbers through state policy changes.
“To really make a difference, it’s going to require a shared responsibility,” Sugar
said. “Students will have to do more, institutions will have to reinvent themselves,
but state leadership should become an equal partner.”
Taxpayers are the leading investors in higher education, he added, and they have
an interest in what’s being done to increase completion rates.
States competing for the grant must
focus on one or two areas specified in the
request for proposals: transforming remediation, shifting to performance funding,
reducing time-to-degree, restructuring delivery for today’s students, and
deploying transformative technology.
The proposals also must demonstrate
“bold, high-quality, large-scale, and
Some examples of what CCA expects
from states are clear, comprehensive
statewide transfer policies, promotion
of student cohorts, an increase in dual-credit opportunities, and customized
and modularized remediation programs.
“This program isn’t just about handing out dollars; this is about the real
work of transforming education,” Sugar
said. That means working with states
to remove obstacles to college completion, such as broken transfer policies,
excessive credit requirements, and failed
remediation policies, among others.
The organization also wants to close
“glaring holes” in metrics. CCA has
developed a set of common completion metrics intended to inform policy
decisions. These include reporting
student transfer and job placement and
earnings. The metrics also disaggregate
data by the type of degree or credential a student is earning, as well as the
age, race, and income of students. The
National Governors Association has
already adopted these metrics.
Since CCA began its work in 2009,
26 states have joined its Alliance of
States, setting completion goals, developing action plans, and collecting and
reporting common measures of progress.
“Governors get it that we have to do
better,” said Sugar.
Winners of this 18-month grant will
be announced July 13.
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