PHILADELPHIA — Marybeth Gasman of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, has been awarded a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the Lumina Foundation for Education, USA Funds and the Kresge Foundation.
Consisting of $500,000 from each of the funding agencies, the grant will be used to study “models of success” that help students finish their degrees at minority-serving institutions, including historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions and Native American tribal colleges.
“This is an example of three philanthropic organizations coming together in a collaborative way to support minority-serving institutions while investigating and investing in student retention and degree attainment,” Gasman, an associate professor in Penn GSE, said. “We are identifying and examining the best practices that can be shared with other institutions of higher education to increase graduation rates among students of color.”
Through a competitive application process, Gasman and her colleagues will choose nine MSIs to participate in the study. Each will receive a $50,000 grant to bolster its practices and further enhance its programs for student retention and degree attainment.
“Minority-serving institutions represent a great opportunity to make significant gains toward the nation’s goal of becoming the most educated in the world,” said James T. Minor, director of higher education programs at the Southern Education Foundation, in Atlanta, and a supporter of the project. “Collectively, these institutions are rich laboratories of exemplary educational practices and student success.”
“MSIs have a lot to teach us, and by making these investments and doing this research, our funders and our research team are interested in elevating the examples of success found among these institutions,” Gasman said.
The research project envisions other positive outcomes.
Researchers hope to improve data collection infrastructure at participating MSIs and share successful models with other colleges and universities.
Gasman’s emphasized the relevance of the project to ongoing policy debates.
“This research is focused on degree attainment, which is one of the tenets of the Obama administration, as well as several major foundations,” said co-investigator Clifton Conrad of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The work will provide valuable insights on how we can do better for minority students in higher education and therefore be more competitive on a global scale.”
The Lumina Foundation for Education is an Indianapolis-based private foundation dedicated to expanding access to and success in education beyond high school.
USA Funds, also based in Indianapolis, is a non-profit organization working to enhance post-secondary education preparedness, access and success.
The Kresge Foundation, based in Detroit, is a $3.1 billion private foundation that seeks to influence the quality of life for future generations and marginalized populations through its work in health, the environment, community development, arts and culture, education and human services.