skip to main content

CSCU Selected to Receive Training & Assistance in PFS in Higher Education National Cohort

Third Sector will help communities explore leverage innovative financing to fund wraparound support services to improve matriculation, persistence, and graduation outcomes for underserved students.

Third Sector announced its new PFS in Higher Education national cohort today with the selection of four communities that will receive training and technical assistance in using Pay for Success to fund student access and success programs. Supported by a grant from the Kresge Foundation, Third Sector will help these communities explore leverage innovative financing as a way to fund wraparound support services to improve matriculation, persistence, and graduation outcomes for underserved students.

The four partner sites in the national cohort are:

  • Arizona State University
  • Colorado Department of Higher Education
  • Connecticut State Colleges & Universities
  • Ohio Department of Higher Education

“We are excited to help states think through how Pay for Success can be leveraged in higher education and support improved student outcomes,” said Third Sector CEO and Co-Founder Caroline Whistler. “These four sites are committed to ensuring that student outcomes are the primary focus of our work together.”

In the last ten years, the cost of postsecondary education has increased by 35% while the availability of public funding for state institutions of higher education has declined. Research shows that college-intending low-income, first-generation, students of color disproportionately experience poorer matriculation, persistence, and graduation outcomes in their path to and through college. These students would benefit from additional wraparound student support services to navigate the system and overcome barriers in order to access and succeed in college. While the evidence base of these services continues to grow, funding is often unsustainable.

The cohort sites will workshop PFS readiness and build toward pilot projects by engaging and co-creating in Third Sector’s training and technical assistance services. Third Sector will lead teams through a series of workshops, exercises, and person convenings as a way to better connect resources and impact for underserved student populations. As part of this work, cohort members will collaborate with college access and success service providers as well as national and local funders. The tools and resources developed during this project will prepare sites to potentially apply for funding available through the Fund for Innovation and Success in Higher Education (FINISH) Act. The FINISH Act is a bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to support innovative, evidence-based approaches that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of postsecondary education for all students, to allow pay for success initiatives, to provide additional evaluation authority, and for other purposes.

“CSCU’s vision is to increase the number of students completing rewarding academic programs,” Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian said. “One goal in support of that vision is to eliminate achievement disparities among different ethnic and racial, economic, and gender groups. The best way to do this is to identify and enroll students, including historically underserved groups, and to provide supports to ensure their initial success and ultimate completion.”

PFS is a specific form of outcomes contracting where an entity (often a government) agrees to pay for outcomes achieved (rather than on a fee for service basis). PFS projects are best-suited for programs that serve a clearly defined population, aim to improve specific outcomes, are resourced with the support and data necessary to prove success, and have been rigorously evaluated for effectiveness. In PFS projects, third party funding is often used to bridge the timing gap between government payments and the upfront capital needed to implement the program.

The four participating states and public systems of higher education were selected through a competitive application process. Of the four communities selected for Third Sector’s national cohort, each participant represents a large public system of higher education, has committed leadership engaging in the training and technical assistance designed to explore PFS and build toward pilot projects, and is dedicated to holding equity and student outcomes at the center of the project.

About Third Sector

Founded in 2011, Third Sector is a 501(c)3 organization that has worked with more than 40 communities to deploy more than $455 million of government resources toward outcomes. Third Sector uses public funding and data as levers to impact how governments, providers, and their partners work with and improve the lives of the people they serve. This process leads to quantifiable improvements in people’s lives by creating new incentives to inspire sustainable operational changes. We work alongside communities to help realize a thriving future of educational opportunity, economic mobility, housing stability, and physical and mental health. For more information, visit www.thirdsectorcap.org, and to learn more about the PFS in Higher Education national cohort, email Sarah Walton at swalton@thirdsectorcap.org.


For more information, please contact:
Leigh Appleby
860-723-0617
applebyl@ct.edu