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 pleased to offer this competitive regrant program for up to 12 NCAN member organizations. The regrants will provide up to $45,000 each over two years to establish or significantly expand success services. Regrants will target place-based and smaller NCAN-member college access programs that are not typically eligible for Michael & Susan Dell Foundation funding. Organizations that receive these regrants will be 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, are ineligible to apply.

Grant Application

Grant proposals should provide a detailed description of the current access and success supports they 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 must also describe existing partnerships (with higher education as well as any other relevant partners).

Applications will be 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)

The grant application can be found here. And here is a PDF of the application if you would like to review all the questions before entering your answers in the Google Form.

If you missed the webinar on how to complete the grant application, the recording can be found here. Here are some FAQs we've collected thus far.

Grant Budget

Applicants may request up to $45,000 over the two-year period of the grant that may be used on staffing, program expenses, data, or other capacity needs. Applicants can request up to $30,000 for the 2018-19 school year for new or expanded success services for students, and up to $15,000 for the 2019-20 school year to cover stepped-down sustainability of success services. Applicants may NOT use grant funds to cover:

  • Student tracking database fees
  • Overhead costs, including existing personnel
  • Unsustainable new personnel costs

Requirement of Participation

Programs that are awarded a grant must be agree to the following:

  • They must participate in a quarterly learning community to share information, explore common challenges, learn best practices, and ensure sustainability of services by the end of the grant period. The learning community will meet virtually three times a year and meet in-person annually in conjunction with the NCAN national conference.
  • Host the NCAN project manager who will make a site visit at least once over the two-year grant
  • Participate in NCAN’s annual Benchmarking Project to capture student outcomes and compare them to other NCAN members
  • Assist in the development of quarterly updates from NCAN to the field about effective college success programs

Grant Application Timeline

  • November 2017: Release regrant application and webinar on how to apply
  • January 12, 2018: Regrant application deadline
  • March 30, 2018: Award and announce up to 12 regrants