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Kearney's work featured in the Washington Post

Research team tests best practices for helping low-income people get an education and move out of poverty

Poor children who grow up already expecting to have few opportunities in life are more likely to drop out of school or make other decisions that make it harder to move out of poverty, according to MPRC Faculty Associate Melissa Kearney. Kearney is part of a team of economists working with a program called Stay the Course, which provides money and social work assistance in order to help low-income students finish community college. Kearney and her team hope to learn more about the most cost-effective ways to help poor people get an education and move into the middle class.

Some of the students received financial help ($500 per semester) to help them survive financial shocks, while others received both financial help and full social service support. Those who received financial help only still struggled, because hardly anyone encountered just one financial shock in the course of a semester. But those who received more extensive support from social workers fared better. Only 12 percent of the students who received full social-service help have dropped out of school, compared with 26 percent of comparable students who were not assigned to the program.

Nationally, only one in eight students who enter community college full time succeeds in earning an associate degree within three years. Kearney’s team aims to find the best way to help low-income students increase those odds.

Read the story in the Washington Post

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