Colorado and Ohio Departments of Higher Education Make Strides in Collaborative Efforts to Improve Student Success Outcomes

Over the last two years, the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) and the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) have worked alongside Third Sector to develop projects that finance evidence-based services to improve student outcomes to and through college. Collectively, these efforts are known as the Partnerships to Achieve Student Success (PASS) initiative and have been philanthropically supported by the ECMC Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

PASS aims to launch two pilot pay for success (PFS) projects that will forge direct funding relationships between public systems of higher education and college access and success providers. In both Colorado and Ohio, major milestones have been achieved on the path toward pilot launch, anticipated within 2021.

In Colorado, the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) has officially selected One Million Degrees (OMD) as the provider in their “Finish What You Started” pilot, which will explore new services targeted to adult, low-income, Coloradans of color. The pilot will use an innovative outcomes-based financing structure to fund wraparound student support services and provide scholarship funding to re-engage adults (25+) with some college, no degree in CO higher education institutions and facilitate completion of a credential or degree that aligns with Colorado Top Jobs. This pilot supports CDHE’s Master Plan target of 66% attainment by 2025, with a particular focus on closing equity gaps for African American/Black, Hispanic/LatinX, and Native American/Alaskan Native individuals. OMD, an Illinois-based provider offering a holistic suite of evidence-based academic, professional, financial, and personal supports to college students, will work in partnership with COSI, CO institutions of higher education, the Rocky Mountain Partnership, Adams County Workforce and Business Center, and other local organizations to carry out the two-year pilot. Over the next few months, partners will engage in highly collaborative planning to determine how OMD’s services will be adapted to meet the needs of this unique population and complement existing assets in Colorado.

In Ohio, ODHE earned a ‘Pay-for-Success Appropriate and Ready’ feasibility designation from the Ohio Treasurer’s Office as part of their ResultsOHIO program. ODHE’s PFS initiative seeks to improve postsecondary completion rates for recipients of the Ohio National Guard (OHARNG) Scholarship, and eliminate outcomes disparities for OHARNG students of color. Despite receiving full tuition assistance, OHARNG Scholarship recipients have experienced historically poor persistence and completion outcomes. Based on the initial round of screening, ODHE’s project meets the requirements of the ResultsOHIO model, as it has “government champions, a clear theory of change aimed at improving outcomes for National Guard Scholars, and measurable performance metrics.” ODHE and ResultsOHIO plan to jointly release an RFP to select and procure a provider to deliver pre-enrollment and coaching services to help match students with postsecondary programs and provide support and resources during a student’s first year. All partners will then seek to secure outcomes funding for the initiative. ODHE’s project will be among one of the first PFS projects to launch in Ohio using the new ResultsOHIO model.

To learn more about either of these projects, or Third Sector’s work in higher education, email Sarah Walton at