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Research Projects

In addition to maintaining the database of College Promise programs and conducting analyses of these data, Penn AHEAD is engaged in several other projects designed to generate and disseminate research-based knowledge of College Promise programs. Current research projects include the following:

Evaluating Free Community College Programs

Project Lead: Research for Action; Sub-Contract: Penn AHEAD (Laura Perna and team)
Funder: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

This project is designed to advance understanding of design, implementation, and effects of selected state and local free community college programs. The project will also develop and test a framework for assessing the costs and benefits of free community college programs.

Perna, L.W., Wright-Kim, J., & Leigh, E. (2021, April 5). Free college programs can enable more student to go to college, but it all depends on how the program is designed. The Conversation.

Perna, L.W., Wright-Kim, J., & Leigh, E.W. (2021). Will college promise programs improve or reduce equity? Understanding the contextual conditions that influence program implementation.Education Policy Analysis Archives, 29(26). This article is part of the special issue, Policy Implementation as an Instrument to Achieve Educational Equity in the Community College Context, guest edited by Eric R. Felix, H. Kenny Nienhusser, Ángel Gonzalez, Luz Burgos-López. 

EPAA. (2021, February 26). Dr. Perna, Wright-Kim, and Leigh on College Promise Programs [Video].

Perna, L.W., Wright-Kim, J., & Leigh, E. (2020, December). Recognizing the implications of promise program design for equity and efficiency. College Promise, Policy Brief. 

Perna, L.W., Wright-Kim, J., & Leigh, E. (2020). Is a college promise program an effective use of resources? Understanding the implications of program design and resource investments for equity and efficiency. AERA Open, 6(4), 1-15. 

California College Promise Program and Landscape Scan

Project Lead: WestEd; Sub-Contract: Penn AHEAD (Laura Perna and team)
Funder: Irvine Foundation

This project seeks to learn from practitioners, policymakers, industry representatives, technical assistance providers, and researchers about the landscape of College Promise in California. Findings of the investigation will be documented and disseminated to California and national constituents.

The scan will describe the development, expansion, and key elements of California College Promise programs; identify the technical assistance and research needs of the field; investigate perceptions of the potential impact of College Promise programs on students and institutions as well as the alignment between College Promise and other K-16 student success initiatives; and identify the research and service providers who are supporting the field.

Rauner, M., Perna, L.W., & Kanter, M. (2018, November). California college promise: Program characteristics and perceptions from the field. San Francisco, CA: WestEd. 

Improving Research-Based Knowledge of College Promise Programs

Project Lead: Penn AHEAD (Laura Perna); Project Partners: College Promise Campaign, WestEd
Funder: AERA Education Research Conferences Program

On October 19-20, 2017, Penn AHEAD convened more than 50 scholars on Penn’s campus to present current research on Promise programs. A manuscript with peer-reviewed papers from the conference will be published by AERA in fall 2018. For more information, see the conference agenda, presentations, and photos from the conference.

Perna, L.W., & Smith, E. J. (Eds.).(2020, March). Improving Research-Based Knowledge of College Promise Programs. Washington, DC.: American Educational Research Association.