Seeks Tech Solutions to Help Community College Students Graduate and Avoid Poverty

New York, NY—Today at the TEDActive Conference in Whistler, British Columbia, Robin Hood—New York’s largest poverty fighting organization—announced the launch of The Robin Hood College Success Prize, a competition designed to identify scalable technology solutions to increase the 3-year graduation rates of the most at-risk community college students—those enrolled in remedial courses.

Obtaining a college degree is a powerful instrument in the fight against poverty. Individuals with an associate degree will earn—on average—about $10,000 more per year than college dropouts.  The Robin Hood Prize, created in conjunction with ideas42, a leading behavioral ideas lab, will identify innovative solutions that provide first-time, full-time community college students who place into remedial courses the tools they need to graduate, so they can improve their long-term economic prospects.

“Education is the silver bullet when it comes to fighting poverty, and we want the biggest thinkers, and the most innovative developers and designers to step up to the challenge,” said Michael Weinstein, senior vice president of Robin Hood. “For many students, community college is their last, best chance for breaking the cycle of poverty, and as New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization, we feel compelled to help them gain the skills they need to successfully complete their education.“

On a national level, nearly 70 percent of students entering community college take at least one remedial course, even though they have graduated from high school or earned a high school equivalency degree.  This means students must first pass remedial classes before being able to progress to college-credit classes.  Over the course of their community college career, just 28 percent of students who take remedial classes will graduate within 8.5 years; those that don’t will lose valuable time and money in the process, and far too many will drop out before ever reaching the finish line.

“Robin Hood is putting their money where their mouth is to get tech innovators and entrepreneurs to set their minds on solving this difficult challenge,” said Joshua Wright, Executive Director at ideas42. “The Robin Hood College Success Prize combines technology, innovation, applied behavioral economics and rigorous evaluation with an ambitious aim of helping students achieve their goal of completing community college.”

The judging panel consists of individuals with expertise in the fields of remedial and community college education, education technology, technology investments and related fields.

The Robin Hood College Success Prize is the first in a series of competitions designed to identify effective new approaches to finding solutions to the causes of poverty in New York City and beyond.  Robin Hood raised $19 million to fund the Prize series at its annual benefit in May 2012.


The Prize challenge is unique in that the winner(s) will be determined through a 3-year randomized controlled trial among full-time students taking remedial courses at the community colleges of The City University of New York (CUNY). Robin Hood will award a Grand Prize of $3.5 million to the designer(s) of a technology solution that increases the three-year graduation rate of students who place into remedial courses by at least 15 percentage points (roughly doubling the current rate). Two intermediate awards for improving year-over-year student persistence ($500,000) and 2-year graduation rates ($1 million) will also be offered during the randomized controlled trial, for a grand total of $5 million in prizes.

Applications are now being accepted through June 30, 2014.  Semi-finalists will be selected in Summer 2014 and will receive $40,000 to begin product development and an invitation to participate in a workshop run by ideas42.  Three finalists will be selected in January 2015 and will receive an additional $60,000 and advising from ideas42 to further develop their product. The randomized, controlled trial will run for three academic years with any winner(s) of the first intermediate award for year-over-year full-time persistence awarded in October 2016. Any winner(s) of the second intermediate award for college completion after two years will be awarded in October 2017, and any grand prize winner(s) will be announced in October 2018.

To see more about the prize, watch this: 

More information about how to apply and the rules and regulations can be found here:

About ideas42: ideas42 is a private, 501(c)(3) non-profit behavioral ideas lab and consulting firm that uses behavioral economics to do social good and have impact at scale. The organization grew out of behavioral research programs at top academic institutions and our work draws upon decades of experimental scientific research in decision-making and behavior. Over the past few years, ideas42 has developed a systematic process that uses insights from behavioral science to diagnose behavioral bottlenecks in consumer decision-making, and design and test innovative solutions to these bottlenecks.

About CUNY: The City University of New York provides high-quality, accessible education for more than 269,000 degree-credit students and 247,000 adult, continuing and professional education students at 24 campuses across New York City. The University is an integrated system of senior and community colleges, graduate and professional schools, research centers, institutes and consortia. From certificate courses to Ph.D. programs, CUNY offers postsecondary learning to students of all backgrounds.

Throughout its history, the University has been an integral part of the city and state through partnerships with public schools, economic development initiatives, immigration aid and financial advice services and other community outreach programs. Today, CUNY faculty and staff members continue to benefit New York City—as well as the entire nation—by serving as policy experts to business and government, advisers to nonprofit institutions, civic organizations and community groups. Students, too, are strongly encouraged to experience the cultural, educational and community-based opportunities of the five boroughs, through a network of internships and fellowships, to embracing the city as their campus.

Thank you!

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.