Over the past several months, ideas42 engaged in a competitive ‘Request for Problems’ process to gather the most pressing behavioral problems in the postsecondary education sector. The team received 56 applications from a variety of organizations, including four-year institutions, non-profits, national networks, high schools, and education technology start-ups. The problems submitted fell across the postsecondary timeline, from preparation to persistence and completion. The problems received fell broadly into the following categories:

• College Savings: parents are not saving enough for their child’s college education.
• Financial Aid: students are not completing the FAFSA or students are not considering their full set of borrowing options.
• School Selection: students are attending under-matched colleges even when they have been accepted into more selective colleges.
• Matriculation: students apply and are admitted to postsecondary institutions but fail to take subsequent steps towards matriculation.
• Engagement: at-risk students fail to take advantage of on-campus support systems.
• Persistence: students fail to return to school after their first year.

ideas42 received a wide range of compelling applications and hosted a successful two-day Masterclass in October where thirty organizations convened to think deeply about the problems they are facing. After the Masterclass, the search process narrowed to those partners that demonstrated a behavioral problem with potential scalability and impact, organizational capability and buy-in, sufficient sample size to run a randomized controlled trial, and that fulfilled the goals of ideas42’s funding partners. With support from the Citi Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, ideas42 has selected the following partners to engage in behavioral diagnosis and design processes:

Organization Behavioral Problem
Youth Policy Institute
 (Citi Foundation)
Students are accepted into a postsecondary institution and have strong intentions to enroll, but do not matriculate in the fall after high school graduation. We would like them to enroll and begin school.
LaGuardia Community College
 (Citi Foundation)
A majority of new students who accept their place and take the developmental skills placement tests are then not enrolling. We would like them to enroll and begin school.
San Francisco State University
 (Michael & Susan Dell Foundation)
Approximately 18% of eligible first-time freshmen fail to return to SF State for their sophomore year. We would like them to continue their enrollment and attendance in school.

Over the coming months, ideas42 will collaborate with the selected partners to diagnose behavioral bottlenecks and design interventions. The team will then execute these interventions and test them through 2014 and 2015.

ideas42 believes that low-cost behavioral interventions can have a significant impact on these problems, leading to higher graduation rates among low-income students, and that these solutions will have broad implications for similar organizations in the postsecondary domain.

Keep an eye out for more information and deeper insights from this work over the coming months. To learn about other ongoing work in this space, check out the new project “Nudging for Success: Breaking Behavioral Barriers in the Financial Aid System”.