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The College Success Prize is designed to empower students and arm them with the tools they need to graduate college. With the ultimate goal of alleviating poverty, the Prize hopes to spur the development of an innovative, scalable, and technology-enabled tool that can help more students graduate from community college.


The Prize was designed by the behavioral design lab ideas42, using insights from social and behavioral science to inform the structure and goals of the competition. ideas42 also provided resources and advice to contestants on how to further develop and improve their tech-based interventions with behavioral science.



Getting a college degree is more important than ever for future earnings. Low-income workers can greatly improve their likelihood of advancing to the middle class by attaining college degrees. In the United States, individuals with associate degrees will earn — on average — about $10,000 more per year than college dropouts.

In New York City, over 80% of incoming community college freshmen are required to take remedial courses before they can take college-level classes (despite having earned high school diplomas or equivalent certificates). And of those freshmen taking remedial classes, 75% will fail to earn their associates degrees within six years.


The competition opened in March 2014 to individuals and teams that develop scalable solutions that will help more community college students graduate within two to three years. Competitors choose to address whichever set of student skills they believe will produce the greatest success, including subjects like math, reading, or writing, as well as behavioral, non-cognitive, or non-academic factors.

The Prize will reward successful interventions — such as smartphone apps, computer applications, and web-based tools — that are aimed at the individual student and will supplement existing curricula and supportive services such as tutoring.


A randomized controlled trial (R.C.T.) of the two finalist interventions was undertaken with The City University of New York community college students who enrolled in the fall of 2015.  The three-year R.C.T. results showed that neither of the two finalist interventions was able to raise the graduation rates of the students requiring remedial courses and receiving the interventions by an amount statistically significant compared to the control group (which received no intervention). As a result, no Prize was awarded.

This Prize was offered to help create innovations to address an important problem, with a high bar for declaring victory.  While this Prize did not produce a winning breakthrough, we are proud of the work of the applicants, the City University of New York and the students in creating, deploying and using these new applications. Robin Hood will continue to invest, both in existing college success interventions which have proven to be effective, as well as in promising new interventions which have the potential for even stronger returns.

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