Upjohn Institute receives grant to improve equity in tuition-free college Promise programs

Students with hands raised in classroom

The Kresge Foundation has awarded a grant to the Upjohn Institute to expand on the institute’s research on place-based college “promise” scholarships. The $150,000 grant will fund creation of “The Free-College Playbook: Evidence-based Guidance for Policymakers and Practitioners,” a web-based guide for policymakers that leverages research findings to improve the effectiveness and equity of Promise programs.

The project will be co-directed by Michelle Miller-Adams, a senior researcher at the Upjohn Institute and professor of political science at Grand Valley State University and Jennifer Iriti, a research scientist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center. They’ll lead a team of 10 researchers from across the country to ensure that implementation decisions around tuition-free college are informed by evidence.

In a release Nov. 16, the Kresge Foundation said the best college Promise programs ensure all student populations, especially low-income and students of color, benefit. The foundation’s CoPro 2.0 program allots $2.6 million for multi-year grants that incorporate equitable, sustainable practices into Promise program design.

The Upjohn Institute was one of 11 grantees in the competitive program. The institute is among the leading research organizations to study the free-college movement, with a 15-year track record of generating both rigorous research and evaluation and policy guidance. The institute has shown a commitment to collaboration and the generation of collective knowledge through two previous grants from Lumina Foundation and the Strada Education Network. The institute will collaborate with the Campaign for Free College Tuition to produce and disseminate the playbook.

In addition to Miller-Adams and Iriti, the project’s research consortium includes:

  • Meredith S. Billings, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Sam Houston State University.
  • Celeste Carruthers, associate professor at the University of Tennessee with a joint appointment in the Department of Economics and the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research.
  • Gresham D. Collom, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in the Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC).
  • Denisa Gándara, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at The University of Texas at Austin.
  • Douglas N. Harris, professor and chair of the department of economics and the Schlieder Foundation Chair in Public Education at Tulane University.
  • Brad Hershbein, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research .
  • Amy Li, assistant professor of higher education at Florida International University.
  • Lindsay C. Page, the Annenberg Associate Professor of Education Policy at Brown University.

Read the full grant announcement from The Kresge Foundation.

The Kresge Foundation fulfills its mission to promote human progress by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. More information is at kresge.org.

The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization devoted to finding and promoting solutions to employment-related problems. More information is at upjohn.org.

Date: November 16, 2021