MDRC in the News

How Rhode Island Used Detroit’s Model to Raise the Number of Students Graduating College

The Detroit News


Rhode Island is known for sailing regattas, old-money mansions, the Ivy League Brown University and the nuptials of President John and Jackie Kennedy.

But the nation’s smallest state is also the home of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, a Democrat whose work in education legislation led to the federal low-income college tuition grants now named after him, and Pell grants are still being awarded to scores of low-income college students today.

It’s not immune to poverty or young people whose parents don’t have a college education. 

The Rhode Island Promise was created in 2017 to offer a tuition-free path to an associate degree for first-time, full-time high school students…..

…..The Detroit Promise Path offered a college coach and a $50 monthly stipend in addition to free tuition for high school students to attend community college, because the Detroit Promise, a free tuition program, was not leading to enough students staying enrolled and earning degrees or certificates.

Early reports from a study of the Detroit Promise Path by social research firm MDRC showed some early success with more students enrolled full-time and more returning for their second semester…..

…..But Michelle Miller-Adams, a senior researcher studying the free college movement at the Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo, said comparing the programs in Detroit and Rhode Island is like comparing apples to oranges since Detroit’s program was rigorously evaluated by the MDRC to see if intrusive coaching led to successful outcomes. But there is no evidence showing what led to Rhode Island’s success…..

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