ATLANTA — A new research-practice partnership between Georgia State University’s Georgia Policy Labs (GPL) and Achieve Atlanta is one of three research-practice partnerships named as winners of the prestigious 2022 Institutional Challenge Grant to reduce inequality in youth outcomes. The grant is designed and awarded by the William T. Grant Foundation, Spencer Foundation and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

GPL and Achieve Atlanta will receive $650,000 for their project to reduce racial, ethnic and economic disparities in how new college students finance their education. The three-year project is led by co-principal investigators Sally Wallace, dean of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State, and Tina Fernandez, founder and executive director of Achieve Atlanta, a nonprofit that helps Atlanta Public Schools students access, afford and earn postsecondary credentials.

“The majority of the students we work with are from low-income families and they must consider complex factors when deciding how to finance college,” Fernandez said. “By learning more about how these families make college-related financial decisions, we hope to help more people reach the goal of economic mobility through a college degree.”

Achieve Atlanta and GPL will leverage data from several sources, randomized controlled trials and qualitative participatory action research to evaluate how the Achieve Atlanta Scholarships and associated services impact the way students finance their education, how they make these college financing decisions, the effectiveness of financial counseling interventions and how Achieve Atlanta can improve its services.

Another goal of the grant is to expand research-practice partnerships and promote critical institutional change. To this end, Georgia State University will host an Engaged Research Competition among untenured faculty and Ph.D. students and encourage conversations about elevating engaged research in promotion and tenure policies. Achieve Atlanta staff will participate in summer trainings on qualitative and quantitative research to build staff capacity to understand and use research.

“On the practice side, this generous grant will help us help Achieve Atlanta increase the amount and scope of their research and allow them to focus on effective strategies to reduce inequalities in higher ed access and completion,” Wallace said. “We are thrilled to join with all Institutional Challenge Grantees in expanding the use of research-practice partnerships to reduce inequalities in youth outcomes, support and reward community-engaged research, and strengthen the research capacity of agencies and nonprofits. All will benefit from these partnerships.”

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