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Robin Hood Announces Semi-Finalists for $5 Million College Success Challenge

Competition Seeks to Identify Tech Solution to Help Community College Students Graduate and Avoid Poverty

NEW YORK, Aug. 13, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Robin Hood, New York's largest poverty fighting organization, ideas42, a leading behavioral ideas lab, along with The City University of New York (CUNY), the leading urban university system in the U.S., today announced the semi-finalists for The Robin Hood College Success Prize, a competition designed to identify scalable technology solutions to increase the three-year graduation rates of the most at-risk community college students—those enrolled in remedial courses.

The 18 semi-finalists, who will each receive $40,000 to further develop their products, were selected from a pool of 104 applicants.  In addition, the semi-finalists will be invited to participate in an interactive workshop with ideas42, where they will receive an in-depth look on how to apply behavioral science to improve the effectiveness of their products.

The competition received applications from a range of developer communities, including large public companies, startups, and universities.

  • Applicant teams included participants from 12 countries including Brazil, Canada, France, India, Italy, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and others.
  • The states with the largest percentage of applicants included New York with 33 percent and California with 18 percent.
  • 75 percent of applicant teams included both female and male designers.
  • 47 percent of submissions were based on tools specifically designed for this competition, while 30 percent were based on existing products, and 23 percent were adapted from current technologies.
  • Roughly 25 percent of the applicants were affiliated with a university and 10 percent of the applications were submitted by student teams. Applicants included teams from The City University of New York, Diablo Valley Community College (California), Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Colorado (Boulder), and Yale University.

"The Robin Hood College Success Prize brings the challenge of improving community college graduation rates to a broader audience, and we congratulate the semi-finalists and wish them well in this second phase of the competition," said CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken.

"The Robin Hood College Success Prize represents an incredible opportunity to make graduation day a reality for countless more community college students," said Joshua Wright, Executive Director of ideas42. "We're thrilled to help such a talented group of semi-finalists incorporate insights from behavioral science into their ideas and create a lasting impact on the lives of so many students."

"Robin Hood's mission of fighting poverty in New York City compels us to search for the unknown -- innovative approaches that fire up the imagination because they hold out the promise of transformational change," said Michael Weinstein, Economist and Chief Program Officer of Robin Hood.  "The College Success Prize holds out the promise of helping tens, perhaps even hundreds, of thousands of people around the country, and world, prosper in their adulthood rather than wallow in poverty."

"The Robin Hood Prize inspired a host of high-potential, creative solutions to the widespread and stubbornly persistent problem of remediation," said Nikki Edgecombe, Senior Research Associate, Teacher's College, Columbia University.  "It was particularly exciting to see how the applicants gathered diverse teams of experts to develop solutions grounded in rigorous educational evidence coupled with the latest technological advancement."

The 18 semi-finalists are:

1. Beyond 12

10. Kinvolved

2. Carney Labs LLC

11. Kipin Hall

3. Core Skills Mastery

12. KnowRe

4. Dedicated

13. LimeSpring

5. EdReady

14. Mobilize Success with GPS LifePlan

6. Education Advisory Board

15. Persistence Plus LLC

7. GetSet

16. Ponder

8. GradGuru

17. Stanford Interventions Lab

9. JumpCourse

18. Team InfoMe

For more information on the semi-finalists and their submissions, please see addendum at the end of the press release.

Next Steps for The Robin Hood College Success Prize

Following the announcement, semi-finalists will have five months to continue developing their products before the Showcase Day in January 2015. The Showcase Day will provide an opportunity for semi- finalist teams to present their solution to the Judging Panel, which will select up to three finalists at the event. Those finalists will receive an additional $60,000 and an opportunity to take advantage of one-on-one coaching from ideas42.

The Robin Hood College Success Prize 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 several CUNY community colleges. The randomized, controlled trial will commence in the fall of 2015 and will last until the fall of 2018. 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.

To learn more about the prize, please visit:

Robin Hood is New York's largest poverty-fighting organization, and since 1988 has focused on finding, funding, and creating programs and schools that generate meaningful results for families in New York's poorest neighborhoods. Since its founding, Robin Hood has distributed nearly $1.5 billion in grants and initiatives to hundreds of New York City-based soup kitchens, homeless shelters, schools, job training programs, and other vital services that give New York's neediest citizens the tools they need to build better lives for themselves and their families. In addition, Robin Hood's board of directors pays all administrative, fundraising and evaluation costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to organizations helping New Yorkers in need.

About ideas42
ideas42 is a private, 501(c)(3) non-profit behavioral ideas lab and consulting firm that uses insights from behavioral economics to do social good and have impact at scale. The organization grew out of behavioral research programs at top academic institutions and 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.

Robin Hood $5 Million College Success Challenge:
About the Semi-Finalists

  1. Beyond 12
    The Beyond 12 "MyCoach" app helps students keep track of deadlines and milestones, and, based on the college students are attending, provides them with personalized tools and tips to help navigate their college experience.   Students receive automated alerts (mimicking the nudges from a live coach) on their mobile devices that include links to the campus resources available to help them complete certain tasks.  In addition, the app allows students to record completion of tasks; motivates students in the form of points and badges for skill and knowledge mastery; and encourages students to share their experiences with peers.  Ultimately, MyCoach will bridge the information gap and help students master the activities, behaviors and habits that increase their success in college and beyond.
  2. Carney Labs LLC 
    YOU CAN DO IT! College Champion will address common college freshman obstacles (e.g., time management, scheduling priorities), provide a clear channel of ongoing support and encouragement, deliver self-motivating prompts, and link communities of students to encourage connectedness at CUNY.
  3. Core Skills Mastery 
    Core Skills Mastery (CSM) is a free web-based course that monitors and responds to student issues in key math and literacy skills; problem-solving strategies and mindset; active, independent learning; and performance traits like persistence, self-efficacy, and conscientiousness.  CSM incorporates an advanced adaptive learning engine, requires a significantly higher level of mastery than most competency-based models, employs an instructional model of intrinsic motivation and meta-cognition, and directly addresses learned helplessness.
  4. Dedicated
    Start Strong.  Finish Stronger.  Together.  You are dedicated to reaching your goals at community college.  Our mobile app is dedicated to making that simpler.  We help lead you.  You help lead your classmates.
  5. EdReady
    EdReady is a math readiness system for anyone considering attending college in the United States.  The purpose of EdReady is to help prepare students to avoid remedial instruction and begin their college studies by giving them the resources they need to achieve adequate scores on the commonly used placement exams AccuPlacer, Compass, and ACT.
  6. Education Advisory Board
    The road to success at community college starts before a student's first day of classes; it starts as soon as they apply.  To give every student her or his personalized pathway to success, EAB (a division of the Advisory Board Company) has built a platform that marries goals with outcomes, life with school, and needs with resources, all to ensure that students stay on track through all of life's ups and downs.
  7. GetSet
    GetSet helps students define their goals, rise above challenges, and get support from other students.
  8. GradGuru
    GradGuru is a free app that helps students get through college with school deadlines, advice, and a way to earn rewards for doing to the right things. GradGuru reduces community college dropout rates and accelerates students' completion.
  9. JumpCourse
    JumpCourse offers best-in-class online, adaptive learning courses to prepare students for college entrance exams as well as credit by exam (i.e., CLEP).  Our affordable courses offer the best in adaptive learning technology, as well as professionally produced videos, eBooks, and hundreds of interactives to ensure our students are learning the material to pass their exam, and our students currently boast an over 95% pass rate for CLEP. 
  10. Kinvolved
    Kinvolved is improving graduation rates of community college students with an app to increase attendance and real-time communication among student support networks.
  11. Kipin Hall
    Kipin Hall is a mobile and web based retention solution for higher-ed. The app uses a proven set of behavioral studies to help students achieve their academic goals.
  12. KnowRe 
    KnowRe is an online adaptive learning program for mathematics.  KnowRe believes that the most effective educational approach is one that is personalized to the needs of each individual student and that technology is the most efficient way to scale that approach. 
  13. LimeSpring
    LimeSpring provides a developmental (remedial) math solution that can be used to create a blended learning environment. Using LimeSpring, CUNY students have passed developmental math at a rate of 87% (as compared to the national average of ~30%) and reported increases in interest and confidence in the field of mathematics.
  14. Mobilize Success with GPS LifePlan
    The GPS LifePlan has a history of improving community college retention and graduation rates for students.  The proposed improvements to the existing customer relationship management system will increase usage and enhance the effect of participation. 
  15. Persistence Plus LLC
    Persistence Plus is a mission-driven organization focused on increasing college persistence and completion.  Using cutting-edge behavioral interventions, mobile technology, and data analytics, Persistence Plus fosters the student behaviors and mindsets that are associated with college success. 
  16. Ponder
    Where social media meets critical thinking to support student-driven learning and discussion around coursework, career and life.
  17. Stanford Interventions Lab
    There exist psychological factors that while impeding performance among socially disadvantaged groups and playing a significant role in perpetuating opportunity gaps, can be readily overcome using carefully designed, theory-driven and empirically demonstrated psychological intervention strategies.  The proposed project aims to create a targeted and tailored intervention that is delivered in a timely fashion through mobile phones aimed at reducing these opportunity gaps by addressing some of those underlying psychological barriers.
  18. Team InfoMe
    Our technology is an interactive, customizable, and easily understandable platform with two main components:  1) an in-course success tool, and 2) a course selection planning tool.  The application will help students effectively identify, evaluate, and process the multitude of choices they are asked to make, so that they can make the right decisions for themselves, and in the end, reach their goals of college success.

To learn more about the prize or any specific semi-finalists, please visit:

Media contact:

Patty Smith
Robin Hood

Mitra Salasel

Michael Arena

SOURCE Robin Hood

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