Tools for Postsecondary Schools (TfPS)


The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected colleges’ operations and students’ educational experiences, severely strained budgets, and created unprecedented financial and emotional stress for students, faculty, and staff. As colleges adapt to an evolving landscape, they need immediate solutions to support and retain students, as well as to continue to focus on students’ longer-term success. The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) funding in the American Rescue Plan, and the proposed infusion of federal dollars for student success programs in the American Families Plan, offer significant potential to support colleges in investing and sustaining high-impact services and programs that support students.

The Tools for Postsecondary Schools (TfPS) technical assistance initiative, a collaboration with the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and Education Trust, is designed as a series of six workshops and optional coaching sessions that will equip participating colleges with practical guidance to implement or enhance evidence-based strategies. The technical assistance seeks to inform campus strategic planning with a focus on immediately applicable strategies that support student success, incorporate student voices in program design, and elevate equity considerations.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

Tools for Postsecondary Schools has two main goals: (1) to ensure that the strongest evidence about improving student success is incorporated into higher education policy and practice, and (2) to move evidence to action by supporting the development of specific action steps sites can take now, and in the future, to implement the strategies covered during the workshop series. Through a series of workshops and practicums with key state and institutional stakeholders, MDRC will:

  1. Provide technical assistance to states to help them plan, prepare, coordinate, and support the implementation of proven programs within their systems and colleges.
  2. Provide technical assistance and resources to colleges to help them design, plan, implement, and sustain proven programs.
  3. Produce tools to support the technical assistance activities and give participants resources that they can use in their student success programming.

At the institutional level, MDRC researchers and college practitioners will discuss core components of evidence-based comprehensive student support strategies to help close the success gap for students from low-income backgrounds and students of color in a series of six workshops and optional coaching sessions. The workshops will cover a range of topics, including introduction to the evidence; behavioral messaging, proactive coaching, and advising; academic momentum; financial incentives; leveraging data for continuous improvement; and return on investment and building towards sustainability. MDRC will share lessons from the field and strategies for implementation, and participants will have the opportunity to build a network of peers and share what has worked for them at their institutions. After each workshop, participants will identify key learnings and short and long-term goals for implementation. 

At the state level, MDRC will collaborate with the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and Education Trust to engage key stakeholders in partner states in a series of sessions on the evidence about comprehensive student supports and the funding landscape with the goal of supporting institutional adoption of evidence-based comprehensive student supports.

At the end of the series, MDRC will provide a comprehensive technical assistance toolkit that synthesizes resources shared in the practicums that can be used to support other colleges’ and systems’ planning and implementation of comprehensive student support programs.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

The project includes representatives from higher education agencies in the following states: California, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas.

The following institutions are participating in the workshop series: Belmont College, Bristol Community College, Brookdale Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, Cerro Coso Community College, City College at Montana State University-Billings, Dallas College, Dillard University, Helena College, Lamar Institute of Technology, Louisiana State University at Alexandria, Madera Community College, Marion Technical College, Massasoit Community College, MassBay Community College, Mercer County Community College, Missoula College, Montana State University, Montana State University-Billings, Porterville College, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Rhodes State College, River Parishes Community College, Rowan University, Rutgers University-Newark, Salem State University, Southern University at New Orleans, University of Hawaii–West Oahu, University of Hawaii–Manoa, University of Montana, University of New Orleans, and Victoria College.