Improving Equity in College Completion: RFA & CLASP Join Forces on Outcomes-Based Funding

Philadelphia-based Research for Action (RFA) and the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) have embarked on a unique partnership to work with six states to better understand their approaches to rewarding public colleges and universities for both increasing student success and reducing equity gaps through outcomes-based funding (OBF). Based on their analysis, the two groups will create an OBF Equity Toolkit that can be used by states to ensure their policies do not leave the most vulnerable students behind.

“Many states have adopted some form of outcomes-based funding, and while results have been mixed, there is increasing evidence that, over time and if done right, these policies can increase college attainment,” said David Socolow, Director of CLASP’s Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success. “But we have to ensure that all students–especially under-represented communities of color, and students who are adult, low-income, or part-time–are not adversely affected.”

By combining both research and on-the-ground support for states and institutions, the partnership between RFA and CLASP is a practical, results-oriented approach designed to identify how colleges and universities can ensure equitable student outcomes, and build the capacity of the field to use state dollars as an incentive for effective, equitable postsecondary completion policies.

“Many states already recognize the need to address equity concerns, and have refined their OBF policies to spur institutions to ensure strong outcomes for disadvantaged populations,” said Kate Shaw, Executive Director of RFA. “Yet approaches vary significantly, and there is no clear road map for what might work best, given variation in student populations, state governance structures, and institutional mission, capacity and funding levels. While equity goals in OBF policy probably can’t be met by a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, we hope the OBF Equity Toolkit will provide states with a menu of strong options.”

This work is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are grateful for the opportunity to embark on this important work with RFA,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of CLASP. “This partnership combines CLASP’s postsecondary policy and advocacy expertise with RFA’s research skills and nuanced understanding of OBF policy to work toward our shared goal of improving opportunity and outcomes for underserved students.”