The Wisconsin HOPE Lab at UW-Madison, which made headlines with research showing many college students struggle to find enough to eat and a place to live, has closed with the expiration of its funding.
Other UW-Madison researchers are engaged in research focusing on marginalized students, however. And HOPE Lab founder Sara Goldrick-Rab is launching a new research center at Temple University in Philadelphia that is an evolution of the Wisconsin lab.
The Center for College to Workforce Transitions at UW-Madison seeks to improve how students experience the transition from college to work and improve their success through research, policy analysis and public dialogue. The center was founded last year by Matt Hora, a researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
“CCWT wants to give a voice to marginalized students who often serve as research subjects, but do not actively participate in the college-to-work debate. For instance, a current study is looking at how, or how not, Latinx college students benefit from student services and resources at their schools,” said Janet Kelly, WCER director of communications.
Other UW-Madison research and service groups, such as the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning, the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research, and The LEAD Center, are working to interest and retain more minority students in college, understand undergraduate STEM persistence and promote research mentoring for diverse college students, Kelly said.
Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple, will launch the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice on Sept. 29. She left UW-Madison in 2016, but funding for the HOPE Lab at Wisconsin continued through June 30.
The Hope Center at Temple will take a broader approach in its research into college affordability, extending its focus beyond what colleges and universities do to examine the work of housing providers and hunger relief organizations, Goldrick-Rab said.
“Knitting research around policy and practice is the focus,” she said. “We want to see change and we have to change the behavior of institutions and whole systems.”
That has meant adding service providers to the center’s academic team of researchers, and mapping out ways to use research findings to change public perception about who the college students are who need help, she said.
An early project for the center, funded through a $3.98 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, will research and work to improve the effectiveness of completion grants, which allow college seniors to stay in school and get their degrees.
“It feels like we grew up in Wisconsin and now we’re taking it to a national stage,” Goldrick-Rab said of her research.
WCER is assuming control of a local project of the HOPE Lab, evaluation of AVID/TOPS, a college readiness and tutoring program that is a partnership between the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County.
Jed Richardson, a researcher with the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative at WCER, will continue to direct research into AVID/TOPS. Richardson had been acting director of the HOPE Lab since Goldrick-Rab’s departure.