Is a College Promise Program an Effective Use of Resources? Understanding the Implications of Program Design and Resource Investments for Equity and Efficiency

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Also known as “free tuition,” college promise programs are emerging across the United States as a potential mechanism for improving college access and affordability, Whether these initiatives are an effective use of resources depends on whether programs advance societal goals for equity and efficiency. Although some emerging research explores the role of program design, few studies have probed how program design and resource investments influence program outcomes, efficiency, and equity. To address this knowledge gap, this study draws on case studies of programs that offer free tuition to attend four community colleges. Findings illustrate how program outcomes, efficiency, and equity may be influenced by the criteria used to determine program eligibility and the resources invested in the financial award and other program components. We hope the findings are useful to policymakers and institutional leaders, as they strive to allocate resources to advance both efficiency and equity.



education, higher--government policy, College Promise Program, equal opportunity in education, community colleges