college student

Translation & Development

Work in the Wisconsin HOPE Laboratory ranges from basic research to active dissemination. Translation and development activities will occur when discovery leads to the need for intervention and development. In this process, the Lab research team will work closely with practitioners to test potential approaches and begin to evaluate them with initial quasi-experimental or small-scale experimental research. The identification of key implementation challenges and cost-evaluations will occur at this stage as well.

Time & Resource Allocations of Undergraduates

How do Wisconsin college students spend their time? How does this correspond to how engaged they are in college life and how well they perform academically? The research team of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab spent three years developing a cell phone-based application and related to survey technology to ask these very questions, in real time.  A pilot study employing this technology began in April 2014 involving approximately 1,200 University of Wisconsin Colleges students. Full-scale use of this technology will begin in fall 2014. (began in 2010)

Constructing Affordability: How Institutional and Relational Contexts Affect Retention of Undergraduates from Low-Income Families

This multi-site, mixed-method, comparative study investigates how institutional and relational contexts shape the meaning of affordability for 60 students from low-income families as they move through the first 18 months after they first enroll in college. The study aims to develop setting-level measures of contexts that promote positive perceptions of affordability among students from low-income families. These measures could be used to create targeted contextual interventions to increase their chances of college completion.

Project overview

The Hidden Costs of College Attendance

The price of engaging fully in college life is often more than students anticipate.  What unexpected expenses do students face in order to join their fellow classmates in work and leisure activities? How do they secure resources to cover these costs?  Lab researchers are exploring these issues with surveys and interviews.

An Exploratory Analysis of a Social Service Program Operating in Community Colleges

This mixed-method study examined the implementation of Single Stop USA, a program that seeks to bring additional resources to individual students while helping educational institutions bridge traditional silos between educational and social service providers. This intervention is expected to produce better student outcomes than current education practice because it addresses the role that economic resources and social capital play in shaping college affordability, students’ use of time during college, and their chances for succeeding in persisting until certificate or degree completion. Research was funded by the Kresge Foundation and the Association of Community College Trustees. The study is now complete and a report was issued in July 2014.

Hunger/Homelessness Eradication Applied Research Tools (HEART)

HEART is dedicated to helping researchers across the country and world study food and housing insecurity issues in higher education. HEART assists researchers by: 1) providing survey instruments and coding instructions, 2) offering technical assistance in fielding surveys and getting high response rates, 3) analyzing and conducting statistical analyses on de-identified data, 4) making data comparisons, and 5) disseminating reports and sharing findings. HEART's work is partially supported by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab.

Costs, Productivity, and Equity in Higher Education

How much do colleges need to spend to adequately educate their students? Which colleges, and which programs within those colleges, use their resources most efficiently to help students graduate? Do students at all public colleges and universities, from flagships to broad- and open-access institutions, have enough resources to provide adequate learning experiences? Answers to these questions are critical systems of higher education and federal and state higher education policymakers, yet little is currently known.

To advance this conversation, the Wisconsin HOPE Lab hosted a convening in July 2015 focused on costs, productivity, and equity in higher education. The first focused on the current state of knowledge on higher education costs and made recommendations for how researchers can provide institutions, policymakers, and the public with the information necessary to ensure sufficiency and effective use of higher education resources. These experts agreed: there is little information on college costs, funding disparities, and returns to investment, and new tools are needed to move beyond the current emphasis on college prices. The Lab then hosted a follow-up convening in October 2015 to discuss how researchers can better explicate higher education costs. Researchers at this convening concluded that resource cost models, a staple of K-12 finance, could also be applied to postsecondary to better inform practitioners, policymakers, and the public about adequacy and equity in higher education financing.

Moving forward, the Lab is engaged in a study of the resource costs of implementing the AVID/TOPS Program, a joint effort of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s and Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. In addition, the Lab is exploring studies to evaluate the costs of specific higher education programs at colleges and universities and investigate whether those costs vary by institution or by the types of students enrolled.