Over 200 College Promise programs across the country are making higher education more accessible by covering the cost of tuition. While these programs make it easier for students from low-income backgrounds to enroll in college, they don’t typically address nonfinancial barriers to academic success.  As a result, many students drop out before fully benefitting from free tuition.


To improve outcomes for students in College Promise programs, nonprofit research organization MDRC partnered with the Detroit Regional Chamber to develop a pilot program called the Detroit Promise Path. The program incorporates evidence-based interventions from the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs initiative including coaching, financial incentives, data tracking and summer engagement strategies. MDRC’s initial evaluation of the Detroit Promise Path found that the added support had a positive impact on enrollment in the first two semesters.

Based on those results, MDRC developed the College Promise Success Initiative (CPSI) to enable more colleges to supplement their College Promise programs with student success supports. CPSI will help colleges develop and deploy institutional changes through a series of webinars, online tools and best practices reports. The College Promise Campaign and State Higher Education Executive Officers organizations will help develop the webinar series and share findings with the field.

We made a $1 million grant to back the project. A portion of this funding will allow MDRC to provide in-depth technical assistance to the Community College of Rhode Island, Flint Promise, Richmond Promise and Portland Community College. Other funders are the Kellogg Foundation, the Ford Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and JP Morgan Chase.

We hope that by building proven success strategies into existing programs, we can learn more about what works to keep College Promise students enrolled. At the conclusion of the project in summer 2019, MDRC will publish policy briefs outlining best practices.


Contact Program Officer Maryann Rainey at