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Postsecondary Opportunity Programs: Defining and Improving an Educational Policy Innovation

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Many students and families face significant barriers to postsecondary education, including college costs, a lack of understanding of admissions requirements and financial aid options, and the absence of a pervasive college-going culture. As a result, higher education applications, enrollments, and graduation rates fall short of desired levels, and this deficit impairs economic and community viability. In response, concerned stakeholders have enacted policies and programs designed to confront this problem.

This brief provides a common term, definition, and introductory overview of these programs based on an exploration of more than 120 programs nationwide. It describes goals, eligibility guidelines, benefits to recipients, and funding sources and offers a common language to help researchers and policymakers group, describe, compare, analyze, and evaluate these programs. The brief concludes with four recommendations to consider as these programs continue to develop.