colleg student


Work in the Wisconsin HOPE Laboratory ranges from basic research to active dissemination. Evaluation activities take place for the most promising interventions, using methods meeting the standards of the What Works Clearinghouse.

Financial Aid Nudges

This study examines whether providing students with timely information on FAFSA renewal and Satisfactory Academic Progress, delivered via text message, can improve student outcomes, including completion. The project takes advantage of a unique opportunity to embed an experiment in the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, a nationally representative sample of college students, and it is the first of its kind at the U.S. Department of Education. The project team includes Ben Castleman of the University of Virginia, Lindsay Page of the University of Pittsburgh, and Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth College.

Impacts of Need-Based Grants on STEM Success

This study will estimate the impact of a need-based financial grant on students’ selection of, continued enrollment in, and successful completion of associate and baccalaureate degrees in key science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM) programs. The project follows 1,600 undergraduates from low- and moderate-income families enrolled in 10 Wisconsin colleges and universities. 1,000 students were awarded grants funded through Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation. (began in 2014)

Project Overview

Experimental Evaluation of a Financial Aid Call Center

In partnership with the University of Missouri, we are examining the impact of low-cost outreach to continuing students aimed at increasing the rates at which they re-file for financial aid on time. This project, led by graduate student Russ Cannon and supported by Sara Goldrick-Rab, is expected to produce findings by mid-2015. (began in 2013)

Impact of Loan Counseling on Undergraduate Retention

In partnership with J. Michael Collins (UW-Madison) and a for-profit online university, and funded through U.S. Treasury we are examining the comparative impact of enhanced loan counseling and financial education on financial aid and educational decisions among students attending that for-profit institution. The primary intent of this randomized experiment is to test the hypothesis that information alone is insufficient to alter student behaviors. Principal Investigator: J. Michael Collins. Co-Principal Investigator: Sara Goldrick-Rab. (began in 2014)

Effects and Resource Costs of the AVID/TOPS Program

Using a matched group comparison design, this study estimates the impacts of this program implemented in the Madison Metropolitan School District across all middle and high schools with the intent of reducing the size of the black/white achievement gap. It is complemented with an effort to understand the resource costs involved in implementing the program. The study is conducted in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education. Principal Investigators: Sara Goldrick-Rab and Tammy Kolbe. (began in 2012)

In January 2016, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County announced that they will receive $3.3 million to expand the AVID/TOPS program in Madison and Verona public schools. News coverage of this announcement cited the Lab's evaluations showing that AVID/TOPS students enroll in more AP and honors courses and have better attendance than similar students not in the program. Read more here, here, and here.

Wisconsin Scholars Longitudinal Study

This multi-method experimental study tests the impact of a private need-based grant program in terms of the behaviors and academic outcomes of 3,000 Wisconsin Pell Grant recipients attending 42 public two-year and four-year colleges and universities. In addition, heterogeneous treatment impacts and treatment heterogeneity, as well as key mechanisms are explored.  Finally, using a quasi-experimental design, the impact of reductions in student debt on young adult outcomes is explored. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, HCM Strategists, Institute for College Access and Success, Smith Richardson Foundation, Spencer Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation, University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School, and the University of Wisconsin System. Principal Investigator: Sara Goldrick-Rab. (began in 2008)

Impact of Student Debt on Transition to Adulthood

This quasi-experimental study examines the impact of student debt on the end-of-college transition and post-college outcomes of Wisconsin undergraduates.  Funded by the Spencer Foundation. Principal Investigator: Sara Goldrick-Rab. (began in 2012)

Evaluation of the Delta Achievement Gap Project

This evaluation examines the Achievement Gap Program, based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which aims to address the academic achievement gap that separates underrepresented minority, 1st generation and low socioeconomic status undergraduate students from their peers, particularly in large courses. The program hopes to improve student outcomes by changing faculty and staff knowledge about diversity issues and the academic achievement gap, specifically, and in turn their teaching practices. (began in 2014)

Evaluation of College Possible Milwaukee

This evaluation of the Milwaukee location of this nonprofit organization's college coaching activities  examines programmatic impacts on students’ high school achievement, attainment, and college preparation activities, as well as college enrollment, college choice, and “match.” (began in 2015)

Evaluations of Supports for Food and Housing at Community Colleges

This mixed method, experimental study tests the impacts of three interventions that provide food and housing to needy community college students: meal vouchers at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, food scholarships at Houston Community College, and housing vouchers at Tacoma Community College. The study is funded by the Kresge Foundation. (began in 2017)