Improving Affordability and Low-Income Student Outcomes at Comprehensive Public Four-Year Colleges and Universities

    During the 20th century, the establishment and expansion of hundreds of new public four-year colleges gave the United States a preeminent place as the most educated nation in the world. With many other countries catching up, we still have enormous gaps—regional, racial, economic and generational—in access to bachelor's degrees, which now more than ever represent the admission ticket to middle-class America.

    The nearly 500 regional comprehensive universities in the United States, which focus predominantly on undergraduate education for students in their states and metropolitan areas, have the potential to play as vital a role in the 21st century as they did in the 20th, but face daunting and diverse challenges in reaching new types of students while remaining fiscally and academically sound. Knowledge of these challenges and the significant role these institutions play in increased attainment led to the development of Maximizing Resources for Student Success, a research project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation designed to explore ways that four-year comprehensive universities can improve college outcomes for low-income students without increasing the costs.

    On this site, leaders of public four-year colleges and universities will find thoughtful, well-researched descriptions of strategies that could help their institutions become more affordable for students and allow larger numbers to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. The investigations describe the evidence base for four related strategies: transfer pathways, competency-based education, pricing and financial aid, and reducing time- and credits-to-degree. The papers include challenges and opportunities in implementing those strategies, examples from public institutions across the country, and advice for leaders who want to move forward.