Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Supporting community college students: One Million Degrees (OMD) is a comprehensive support program for low-income community college students in the Chicago area. It aims to boost community college enrollment and completion rates by addressing financial, academic, and personal barriers to student success.

  • Providing financial support: OMD participants are eligible for three types of financial support to cover education-related expenses. These include a performance-based stipend, which is awarded for participation in OMD sponsored professional development programming; grants to cover enrichment activities (e.g., attending a conference); and a last-dollar scholarship to cover tuition expenses that may remain after other financial aid is exhausted.

  • Offering support on-campus: Each scholar is assigned an OMD program coordinator who is embedded on their college campus. The program coordinator provides participants with a range of academic and personal supports, such as advising (e.g., help registering for classes) or referrals to private tutors.

  • Coaching participants for professional success: Each participant is also paired with a local professional, who volunteers to serve as their career coach. Coaches attend monthly professional development sessions with their scholar and provide additional individualized supports, like job shadowing or networking opportunities.

  • Partnering across sectors: One Million Degrees is administered by a nonprofit organization funded primarily by corporate and philanthropic dollars. The organization works closely with the local community colleges that its students attend.

A single study with a rigorous design suggests that One Million Degrees is a promising strategy for increasing college access and persistence.

  • A 2022 randomized controlled trial found that participants in the One Million Degrees program were 12 percent more likely to enroll in college and 8 percent more likely to complete a degree within three years than students in the control group.

Note: This content is under review.

  • Keep caseloads small: In the OMD model, program coordinators are responsible for providing scholars with a range of personal and academic supports. To achieve an appropriate intensity of individualized support, OMD keeps caseloads for program coordinators significantly smaller than for the typical community college advisor (about 1 coordinator per 60-65 students).

  • Cultivate support from college administrators: Strong buy-in from campus leaders can have tangible benefits for program coordinators, such as office space to meet with students, easier access to student data, and connections to better help students navigate campus services and resources.

  • Support scholars’ sense of belonging: College students who participate in activities designed to increase their sense of belonging report planning to re-enroll in college at a higher rate than non-participants. OMD programming designed to help scholars develop close interpersonal relationships, like orientation events and monthly professional development programming, may increase scholars’ persistence in community college.

  • Emphasize data and evaluation: OMD has a deep commitment to data, evidence, and evaluation, which has helped the organization demonstrate its effectiveness and identify opportunities to continuously improve its services. This approach has helped OMD build trust and support among funders and community college partners.