Postsecondary Success, Retention and Completion

Project Background and Overview

As college access rates have risen somewhat for low-income students, completion rates still lag further behind. In 2016, the National Student Clearinghouse reported a 25 percentage-point gap in college enrollment rates between students from high-poverty and low-poverty public high schools, but a 34-point gap in college completion. Even NCAN members participating in the annual Benchmarking Project, who demonstrate significantly higher rates of college enrollment and completion than poor high schools, experience a large decline between their students who enroll in college (73 percent) and those who have completed six years later (36 percent).

In response to this gap, NCAN is offering a competitive regrant program for 12 NCAN member organizations. The regrants are providing up to $45,000 each over two years to establish or significantly expand success services. Regrants targeted place-based and smaller NCAN-member college access programs that are not typically eligible for Michael & Susan Dell Foundation funding. Organizations that received these regrants are expected to achieve the following primary goal:

  • Increase the share of students who receive success services compared to those receiving access services by at least 20 percent in the first year and 15 percent in the second year

For example, assuming your program provides 100 students with access services during the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 academic years:

2017-18 School Year (Current)

Target for 2018-19 School Year

Target for 2019-20 School Year

Students Provided with Access Services




Students Provided with Success Services




Additional goals for the program include:

  • Increase program-wide postsecondary enrollment and persistence rates by at least 5 percentage points over two years
  • Decrease the cost per postsecondary student served by at least 15 percent by the end of the second year

Eligible Applicants

  • Current NCAN members offering no or limited success support to postsecondary students
  • Place-based, smaller college access programs with a budget between approximately $750,000 and $2,000,000 annually

Any Michael & Susan Dell Foundation grantees, as well as the organizations that received regrants through NCAN’s TG Success Best Practices grantees, were ineligible to apply.

Grant Application

Grant proposals provided a detailed description of the current access and success supports applicants provide to students, the proposed success services that will be implemented over the two years of this grant, and the plan for implementing any new or enhanced services. Applicants also described existing partnerships (with higher education as well as any other relevant partners).

Applications were evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Strength of plan to implement/expand success services and ability to sustain them after the grant period
  • Demonstrated need for the funding and fundraising ability to sustain the services implemented after the grant period has concluded
  • Track record as a viable and effective organization
  • Strength of recent student outcomes including postsecondary enrollment outcomes, postsecondary completion outcomes (for those applicants currently providing success services), other postsecondary access indicators, and demonstrated ability to track and report student outcomes proficiently
  • The current ratio of students receiving success services to those receiving access services, compared to the proposed ratio of students receiving success services to those receiving access services (target growth rate is 20 percent in year one, with an additional 15-percent growth in year two)

Grant Winners 

In April NCAN selected 12 member organizations to each receive $45,000 over two years: