Exploration Grants

We're driven by curiosity, and we constantly find issues we want to study — based on our own experiences or the research of others. We fund exploration grants to learn more about ideas and approaches we think hold promise for helping more students complete college.

As we consider potential grants, we ask a number of questions: Will the program improve completion rates? Will it impact a significant number of students? Does it have potential on a larger scale? The answers will help guide our future funding efforts.

Currently Funded Programs Include:

Making the Most of State Financial Aid Funds


We’ve partnered with the RAND Corporation to study whether state financial aid grant programs could improve student outcomes by devising a more equitable way to allocate their funds, especially for those students who file for aid late or who just miss out on eligibility.

Prison Teaching & Learning Initiative

Helping incarcerated students thrive

To address the needs of incarcerated students, many of whom have experienced trauma, the Prison University Project is incorporating trauma-informed teaching techniques and sharing best practices with practitioners nationwide.

Career & Technical Education in Prison

A path to employment

Expanding access to higher education programs in prison could help more justice-involved individuals earn industry-recognized credentials that lead to post-release job opportunities.

RAND Landscape Scan: Higher Education in Prison

Incarcerated adults who take part in higher education are 43% less likely to return to prison

*Correctional Education in the United States, RAND Corporation, 2014

We're learning about promising opportunities to put more justice-involved individuals on the pathway to graduation.

Multiple Measures Assessment

70% of community college students placed in remedial courses graduate within 8.5 years

*A Primer on the College Student Journey, Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education, 2016

Students who are placed into remedial classes are less likely to earn degrees than those who start in college-level courses—and research suggests many are misplaced. We're learning whether switching to more accurate assessments can improve graduation rates.

Wisconsin Covenant Scholars Grant

$21.5 million and counting awarded since 2011

Helping students from low-income families meet the cost of college when state grants for Wisconsin Covenant Scholars aren't enough.

"Second Chance Pell" Planning Grant


The Vera Institute of Justice is working with eight Second Chance Pell Pilot Program sites to identify areas for improvement and create roadmaps to positive institutional change.

Promoting Student Success in Prison Higher Education

Developing key performance indicators

By adapting key metrics from traditional colleges for higher education in prison, practitioners could build stronger programs designed to help students stay on the path to success and make the learning experience a more transformative one.

Early Indicators Grant

Identifying student success indicators

Researchers in four states are developing models to predict the likelihood of academic and labor market success based on student behaviors early in college. This tool can help colleges identify students who will benefit most from support services to persist to completion.

The Finish Line: Graduation by Design

Improving outcomes for students at risk

Helping students avoid or mitigate financial aid probation may help them stay enrolled and on track for graduation.

Completion Grant

Keeping at-risk near-completers on track to graduation

Helping colleges identify struggling students in high-demand majors who are within striking distance of graduation — then keep them in school to earn their degrees.