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Expanding Promise: Depicting the Ecosystems of Support and Financial Sustainability for Five College Promise Populations

Millett, Catherine M.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
College Promise Programs, Postsecondary Education, Ecosystems, College Students, Community College Students, Adult Students, Nontraditional Students, Disability Groups, First Generation College Students, Foster Children, Parents, Family Needs, Child Care, Academic Support Services, Introductory Courses, Remedial Education, Access to Education, Degree Completion, Workforce Readiness, Inclusion, Equity, Paying For College, Tuition, Funding, Student Financial Aid, Financial Support, Technology, Support Services, Education Policy Research


The time is now to examine the nation’s capacity to help guide students in gaining access to, paying for, and graduating from college. College promise programs have served as an excellent model. But because a uniform, national college promise model would not adequately serve the estimated 20 million students in postsecondary education, ETS and College Promise launched an effort to expand the work on college promise programs to identify ecosystems of support for specific student populations. In 2021, we invited scholars, practitioners, and student representatives to join a design team and cocreate the college promise program for their student populations: first-generation students, youth in or aged out of foster care, students with disabilities, student parents, and students needing academic support. In multiple panel discussions, other colleagues reviewed the ecosystem designs, focusing on college promise programs in general, the design of the ecosystems of support, or the financing of the ecosystems. Several key themes emerged from the meeting: (a) Although the design teams focused on one aspect of a student’s life, they stressed the importance of focusing on the intersectionality of their identities; (b) terminology and definitions are important not only for policy and practice reasons but for the messages they send to students about inclusion; (c) financing a college education is more than paying tuition and fees; (d) enhanced data collection will support research, policy, and practice; and (e) developing a college promise program requires a focus on both students and postsecondary institutions.

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