A charitable organization is sweetening the pot in the hunt for tech solutions to retention problems.

Jun 30 2014

$5M Prize for Tech That Keeps College Students on Track to Graduate

A charitable organization is sweetening the pot in the hunt for tech solutions to retention problems.

The Robin Hood Foundation is hosting a $5 million prize competition to find tech solutions proven to help community college students stay on track for a degree.

The New York–based charitable organization is partnering with the behavioral economics firm ideas42 to oversee the competition, which won't declare a winner until October 2018, once the solution has been shown to work.

The foundation has a mission to fight poverty, and its board sees improving community college retention rates as a way to combat poverty overall. More students completing a program with an associate degree means more people contributing to the economy and being able to pay off student debt.

"We want the brightest thinkers, creators and developers to step up and help change the lives of a generation of students fighting for a brighter future," according to a video on the organization's website.

The College Success prize will be awarded to proven innovative tech tools developed to help students to stay enrolled and get their degree within two to three years. But the award process isn't structured like a typical competition. Winners will be declared only after intensive testing in a three-year, randomized controlled trial to ensure the technology's effectiveness.

In addition to three prizes totaling $5 million, the finalist and semifinalist teams will be given $40,000 and $60,000, respectively, for development costs.

The effort is similar to the U.S. Department of Education’s First in the World competition, which will dole out $75 million in funding to academic programs designed to keep students on the path to completion.

“Successful applicants must demonstrate not only an innovative project design, but outline a rigorous plan for how the project will be evaluated to demonstrate its effectiveness,” stated the U.S. Department of Education in announcing the competition.

Robin Hood Foundation College Success Prize timeline:

  • March 2014: Applications begin
  • July 2014: Up to 20 semifinalists announced
  • January 2015: Up to 3 finalists announced
  • August 2015: Evaluation begins, continuing through the 2017–2018 academic year
  • October 2016: Intermediate award of $500,000 for one-year retention
  • October 2017: Intermediate award of $1 million for two-year degree completion
  • October 2018: Grand prize winner of $3.5 million announced after three-year degree completion results are determined

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