Leveraging State and Local Relief Funds to Increase College Completion Rates

Webinar hosted by TICAS, SHEEO, and Results for America highlights state efforts to use federal relief funds to increase college completion rates.

States are in the process of determining how to use the $350 billion in federal relief funds granted last year, which must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026. Some are using it to tackle the urgent problem of the college completion crisis. While high school graduation rates have soared to historic highs over the last two decades, growth in the college graduation rate has been much more tepid, and large racial gaps persist. The pandemic further exacerbated this problem with recent college enrollment rates falling farther than at any point in 50 years. This event will highlight states and localities that are investing in proven programs aimed at increasing college persistence, graduation and lifetime earnings and offer a roadmap for other states and localities that are in the midst of deciding how to spend their relief fund.

Meet Our Speakers

Sameer Gadkaree is the president at The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). Sameer has been a leader in college access and success for over a decade. Sameer’s work focuses on addressing racial and economic disparities in college access, including improving the longstanding racial disparities in access to public flagship universities, supporting graduation for community college students, supporting college access for rural students through regional public universities, and access for economically disadvantaged students at selective universities.

Rachel Jerome began college as a student and student ambassador for the CUNY ASAP program at Queensborough Community College. When her student ambassador service ended, Rachel continued working in ASAP as a part-time College Assistant, supporting various program functions while earning her Bachelor’s degree at CUNY’s Queens College. Today, Rachel is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administrations at the CUNY Baruch College Marxe School of Public and International Affairs and serving as the Early Engagement Coordinator for ASAP at Queensborough Community College.

Michele Jolin is the CEO and Co-Founder for Results for America. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Earlier in her career, Michele was appointed in 2010 to be a Member of President Barack Obama’s White House Council for Community Solutions. She additionally served as a Senior Advisor for Social Innovation at the White House under President Obama, where she designed and launched the first Social Innovation Fund.

Roger Low is the Founder & CEO of Colorado’s Education and Economic Mobility Initiative. He founded CEEMI in 2021 after over a decade in the public sector specializing in evidence-based policy and implementation, workforce development, economic mobility, poverty alleviation, and outcomes-based payment models. Previously, Roger served as a policy advisor to U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), in Colorado’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting, and as Policy Director for America Forward.

Kelly McManus directs Arnold Ventures’ higher education portfolio as a member of the Higher Education team. Prior to joining Arnold Ventures, Kelly served as the Director of Government Affairs for The Education Trust, directing strategy and legislative advocacy across early childhood, K-12 education, higher education, and appropriations issues. She also has extensive experience with state-level education advocacy.

Lelani Mercado is the Chief Program Officer for Project QUEST, Inc. where she develops organizational goals, operating plans, policies, short and long-range objectives for the operations of the organization and oversees the Program Experience team. She previously served as the director of participant services at ProjectQUEST, and with distinguished organizations devoted to transforming opportunities for young people, including the YWCA and Communities in Schools.

Dr. Shun Robertson serves as Vice President for Access and Strategy for the University of North Carolina System Office, which is also NC’s SHEEO. She researches key higher education issues, and oversees and manages the development and implementation of the System’s access and student success initiatives. Prior to joining the UNC System, Robertson was a program director at MDC and Jobs for the Future, and a policy analyst for the South Carolina Technical College System (SCTCS). She also has several years of experience working in admissions offices at colleges in Georgia and South Carolina.