Groundbreaking AERA Volume on College Promise Programs Available for Advance Purchase

October 2019

A new AERA volume, Improving Research-Based Knowledge of College Promise Programs, will be released in November and is now available for advance discounted purchase. The volume is edited by Laura W. Perna, the GSE Centennial Presidential Professor of Education and executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania, and Edward J. Smith, a program officer in the Kresge Foundation’s Education Program.

The topic is one of great interest among program leaders, policymakers, and the media. The table of contents can be viewed here.

The introduction provides a brief overview of the volume as well as a framework for conceptualizing the diverse array of current college promise programs. These programs, also known as “free tuition” or “free college” programs, are an emerging approach to increasing higher education attainment in particular places.

A second introductory chapter (by Catherine M. Millett, Stephanie R. Saunders, Martha J. Kanter, and Robyn Hiestand) offers additional contextualization and an overview of the history of the college promise movement. Millett et al. describe the characteristics of promise programs and highlight the important challenges that the programs seek to address.

The volume’s 10 empirical chapters are nested within three sections: “What Do We Know From Prior Research About the Effects of Promise Programs?” “What Are the Effects of Different Types of College Promise Programs?” and “What Forces Contribute to the Establishment of a Promise Program?” In a final section—“Where Do We Go From Here?”—the editors offer conclusions that cut across the chapters, and identify implications for policy, practice, and future research.

“The chapters in this volume improve understanding of some of the variations of college promise programs that are emerging across the United States,” said Perna. “Together, they offer important insights into the role of program design and implementation, especially for determining the characteristics of students who do—and do not—benefit from a program.”

“As policymakers debate whether college should be free, it’s important to take stock of the outcomes generated by the current set of options,” said Smith. “This volume offers credible evidence on the possibilities and limitations of college promise programs. We hope education and civic leaders will use this resource to build an even stronger future for the students, families, and communities these programs serve.”

The volume has received advance praise from several distinguished scholars, such as Jennifer Mishory (Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation), who notes that it “provides important research and highlights the critical nature of key design decisions as policy makers consider new promise programs going forward.” See more endorsements here.