PFS in Higher Education National Cohort

Third Sector is forming a national cohort of higher education institutions, student support service providers, and funders that are interested in exploring Pay for Success (PFS) as a way to fund wraparound student support services that improve matriculation, persistence, and graduation outcomes for underserved students. This effort builds on a 2017 Kresge-funded engagement with uAspire, a national provider of college affordability and financial aid counseling, in which Third Sector conducted a PFS feasibility assessment for uAspire's text-based student support services. In Promoting Student Success: Using Pay for Success to Improve Student Attainment in Higher Education, Third Sector distilled the lessons of that assessment for stakeholders interested in exploring how PFS holds promise for achieving better outcomes for students pursuing postsecondary education. 

With Kresge support, Third Sector seeks to build on that initial feasibility and is offering six months of free technical assistance and training to states and public systems of higher education interested in leveraging PFS to fund evidence-based student access and success supports. Participation in Third Sector’s national cohort will prepare states to launch PFS projects and potentially to apply for new funding under the Fund for Innovation and Success in Higher Education (FINISH) Act which will, if passed, for the first time, authorize Pay for Success in higher education. Similarly, provider participation in the cohort will allow providers to inform, influence, and shape PFS projects that build off the various existing evidence-informed college access and success services.

Request for Information: States and Systems of Higher Education

Third Sector invites interested state departments and/or systems of higher education to submit a brief request for information by Friday, May 17, 2019 at 5 p.m. EST, using this form.

Third Sector hosted an informational webinar on April 25, 2019 to provide more details on the cohort opportunity and to answer questions. Find the webinar video and slides here.

Request for Information: College Access and Success Providers

Third Sector invites interested college access and success service providers to submit a brief request for information by Friday, May 31, 2019 at 5 p.m. EST, using this form.

Third Sector hosted an informational webinar on May 9, 2019 to provide more details on the cohort opportunity and to answer questions. Find the webinar video and slides here.

A New Approach to Systematically Finance College Access and Success

Research shows that college-intending low-income, first-generation, students of color disproportionately experience poorer matriculation, persistence, and graduation outcomes in their path to and through college. These students would benefit from additional wraparound student support services to navigate the system and overcome barriers in order to access and succeed in college. There are a variety of wraparound student support services offered by nonprofit providers across the country that have demonstrated success in achieving the intended access and success outcomes for college-intending students of underserved backgrounds. While the evidence base of these services continues to grow, funding is often unsustainable. In the last ten years, the cost of postsecondary education has increased by 35% while the availability of public funding for state institutions of higher education has declined.

The Higher Ed Cohort

Through the Higher Education PFS Cohort, Third Sector will bring together a cross-state group of partners to workshop, assess, and pilot PFS practices in higher education. The PFS in Higher Education cohort will include in-person convenings, which have been valuable for cohort groups to learn from each other, share common challenges, and generate possible solutions on their path to implementation. The PFS in higher education cohort has four primary goals:

  1. Educate participating stakeholders about innovative contracting and funding mechanisms to attain better outcomes at scale across multiple providers;
  2. Assess and enhance the capacity of organizations, across all levels, to explicitly identify and contract for meaningful college access and success outcomes;
  3. Drive demand toward the utilization of outcomes-based funding to catalyze the performance shift in higher education; and
  4. Develop shared tools and resources, such as an economic model and contract language, that promote a clear pathway for Pay for Success project construction and replicability for scale.

PFS requires the collaboration of government, service providers, and funders. While the uAspire feasibility signaled where PFS in higher education may hold promise, Third Sector has found through past project work that often the most advantageous approach is to bring stakeholders together to workshop and refine an idea, pilot demonstration projects, and then learn from the process together. Third Sector is excited to lead this work with a national learning community cohort in higher education and is actively recruiting cohort members across all three stakeholder groups, to workshop PFS in higher education throughout 2019.

Potential Cohort member types include:

  • States with a strong leader(s) with a track record of exploring and implementing innovative approaches in higher education;
  • States where an outcomes-based funding formula exists/can be enabled;
  • State systems or higher education institutions with accessible data to measure the achievement of student success outcomes (outcomes may include: matriculation, persistence, graduation);
  • Nonprofit college access and success providers that offer wraparound student support services, such as advising and coaching, toward low-income, first-generation, and/or students of color;
  • Nonprofit college access and success providers with data to demonstrate a measurable impact on achieving student success outcomes (ideally has undergone a rigorous evaluation, e.g. RCT);
  • Funders or investors interested in Pay for Success or supporting wraparound student support services that improve outcomes to and through college.

Third Sector’s goal is to develop a strong cohort of higher education institutions, providers, and funders by fall 2019 that will then develop and pilot PFS projects focused on improving college access and success outcomes. Cohort content will draw on effective practices identified through feedback from our past and current cohorts. Participating stakeholder groups will develop a common language and understanding of how state policy, and other enabling factors, can provide the environment for PFS to be used as a tool to promote student success. This cohort approach, with customizable tools shared across the network, will be an effective way to reach a variety of stakeholders to scale and influence the larger national system.

Third Sector’s Cohort Experience

Third Sector uses our cohort model to network organizations and institutions working toward similar goals. To-date, Third Sector has developed three cohort experiences across issue areas and jurisdictions. Third Sector’s cohorts typically run for around 18 months, with 3-4 in-person convenings combined with a series of webinars to share subject-matter content. During convenings Third Sector curates a combination of panels from leaders in the field, facilitates workshop time for project teams, and offers working-sessions for sites to compare notes and troubleshoot common challenges. We have found that cross-state cohorts provide motivation and support to leaders across jurisdictions because they are not constrained by the “status quo” from their own state and are able to jointly identify creative ways to use federal funds.

Visit our Empowering Families and Administrative Data Pilot pages to find out more about our current cohort work.

Resources

  • State Request for Information Webinar: Pay for Success in Higher Education National Cohort
    Date: April 25 at 1:30pm EST/10:30am PST

    Informational webinar to review the Pay for Success in Higher Education national cohort's recent state and public systems of higher education request for information.
    Webinar Video and Slides
  • Provider Request for Information Webinar: Pay for Success in Higher Education National Cohort
    Date: May 9 at 2:00pm EST/11:00am PST

    Informational webinar to provide more details on the Pay for Success in Higher Education national cohort and how providers can inform states to fund evidence-informed support services that improve student outcomes.
    Webinar Registration
  • Blog Post - Leveraging Pay for Success in Higher Education: Building a National Cohort to Boost Student Success Outcomes
  • One-Pager about the project

Please contact Sarah Walton if you are interested in learning more about the PFS in Higher Education National Cohort.

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