College Knowledge

for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

A visualization of the factors behind tragically low college completion rates and stimulus for innovators to tackle the challenge.

Overview

The first step to solving a problem is understanding it. We embarked on a journey to visualize the many low-income middle schoolers who aspire to attend college but who mostly don’t end up actually graduating. We mapped out all of the factors behind this tragically low college completion rates which served as a stimulus for innovators to tackle this problem.

First, we identified the root causes of student success and created an infographic that makes them easy to understand. We performed “what if” exercises to spark creative thinking for a Facebook hackathon and prize competition which focused on using tech to get students not just to college — but through it.

Next we laid out the positive and negative elements that influence the student’s progression and asked why some students, most of them from wealthier households, successfully earn a 2- or 4-year degree. From our exploration we identified behaviors, beliefs and environmental factors that either increase or decrease the likelihood that students would earn a 2- or 4-year degree and brainstormed how negative factors can be mitigated.

Inhibiting dynamics: Negative behaviors, beliefs and environmental factors reduce the likelihood that students earn a 2- or 4-year degree. How can these factors be mitigated? section-image
Supporting dynamics: Positive behaviors, beliefs and environmental factors help explain why some students, most of them from wealthier households, successfully earn a 2- or 4-year degree. What if all students had these supports? section-image
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Help for a hackathon

Two in-depth infographics helped hackathon participants understand the challenges faced by low-income students who are trying to attend college. Both are available online in Prezi form. We hope you’ll find them useful, too.

Dynamics Affecting Student Success

Opportunities to Enhance Student Success