We’re excited to announce that ideas42 is working with the Robin Hood Foundation on a new $5 million prize challenge to address the critical problem of low college completion rates.

The Robin Hood College Success Prize will identify innovative solutions that provide first-time, full-time community college students who must take remedial courses with the tools they need to graduate so they can improve their long-term economic prospects.

As we’ve outlined on this blog previously, getting a college degree is a powerful tool in the fight against poverty. In the United States, successfully obtaining an associate degree will enable people to earn significantly more than those with just a high-school diploma. Yet many community college students, particularly those from low- and moderate-income families, don’t complete their degrees. This is often because they are underprepared for college-level courses and struggle academically.

Nationwide, nearly 70 percent of students entering community college take at least one remedial-level course. Even though these students have graduated from high school or earned a high school equivalency degree, they must first pass remedial classes before being able to progress to full-credit classes that help them progress towards their degree. The problem is that just 28 percent of students who take remedial classes graduate within 8.5 years, and many don’t graduate at all.

The Robin Hood College Success Prize was created to try and find a solution to this problem, and ideas42 is playing an important role in this initiative. In addition to applying proven behavioral principles to the design of the competition, the ideas42 team will provide a behavioral economics workshop to applicants at the Semi-Finalist stage in the process to aid in their product development. ideas42 will also serve as behavioral advisors to teams in the Finalist stage of the competition, helping them to identify and mitigate the behavioral bottlenecks that can prevent students from successfully completing their coursework and obtaining a degree. More in-depth information about the behavioral aspects of this critical problem and the potential solutions is available in our Behavioral Brief.

What makes this competition stand apart from many others is that the winner(s) of the The Robin Hood College Success Prize will be determined through a 3-year randomized controlled trial, implemented among first-time, full-time students taking remedial courses at the City University of New York (CUNY). Up to $5 million will be awarded to the competition winner(s) and a total of $100,000 in funding will be given to Semi-Finalist and Finalist teams to develop and refine their products to tackle this challenge.

Applications for the challenge open March 18th, 2014 and will be accepted through June 30, 2014. Click here to learn more about the prize competition and subscribe to the email list for further updates.

To learn about additional ongoing innovations ideas42 is working on in the postsecondary education space, check out Nudging for Success: Breaking Behavioral Barriers in the Financial Aid System and an overview of a new joint venture with three partner organizations to improve postsecondary success.