LEO earns $275,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation for expansion of community college support program.

Author: Rachel Fulcher-Dawson

The Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) at the University of Notre Dame has received $275,000 in funding to continue its work reducing poverty and improving lives through evidence-based programs and policies.

LEO, a research lab housed in Notre Dame’s Department of Economics, received this award to evaluate the impact of an innovative program, Stay the Course, which utilizes specialized case management to support persistence and completion among low-income community college students. 


 “We are excited about and thankful for support from The Kresge Foundation,” said Jim Sullivan, co-founder of LEO and the Rev. Thomas J. McDonagh, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Economics. “This will allow us to continue to look at the impact of this innovative program on student persistence and completion of college as well as on their employment and earnings.”

Stay the Course was designed by and is run by Catholic Charities of Fort Worth (CCFW) and currently takes place on two campuses of Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas.

As part of The Kresge Foundation grant, CCFW will receive support to replicate Stay the Course at additional sites across the country. Together, LEO’s extended evaluation and CCFW’s replication work will allow the program to impact more students to complete degrees and move to self-sufficiency. 

“Through the rigorous proof of a random assignment evaluation, we know the Stay the Course program makes a real difference,” said Bethany Miller, Kresge Program Officer, Education Program. “So we were excited to enable LEO and CCFW to build the case for and capacity to replicate the program, which will bring together community colleges that need help educating low-income students and social service agencies that want to do more to help students get from college graduation to the middle class.

LEO’s evaluation of Stay the Course — a subject of the popular “What Would You Fight For?” videos that air on NBC during Notre Dame home football games — has already received funding support from J-PAL, NIH and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. 

“Ultimately, at LEO, we want to identify and evaluate programs that are scalable and replicable,” Sullivan said. “Stay the Course represents such a program that has already undergone rigorous evaluation to demonstrate impact and now, with evidence in hand, CCFW can develop the program and replicate it at new sites across the country.”

The Kresge Foundation grant continues a banner year for LEO, following a National Institutes of Health grant in support of research on homelessness prevention, significant media attention for new research on refugees, and presented research on at a briefing on Capitol Hill.

About the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO)


LEO is a research lab housed in the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame.  LEO matches top researchers with social service providers to conduct impact evaluations that identify the innovative, effective and scalable programs and policies that support self-sufficiency.  LEO's research is conducted by Notre Dame faculty as well as an interdisciplinary network of scholars from across the country with expertise in designing and evaluating the impact of domestic programs aimed at reducing poverty and improving lives.  LEO disseminates its key findings to policymakers and front-line providers in order to support evidence-based policy and programming decisions that effectively and jointly reduce poverty in the United States.


About Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW)

CCFW is a large service provider that focuses on low-income families, serving more than 120,000 unduplicated clients annually with a staff that is familiar with experimenting with new programs. With an annual operating budget of $22 million and over 40 innovative programs that draw upon a variety of funding streams CCFW is the ideal partner for implementing the proposed study. In fact, CCFW approached the research team to conduct a rigorous, RCT evaluation of the Padua Program, demonstrating their firm commitment to research and a sophisticated understanding of empirical evidence.

About The Kresge Foundation

The Kresge Foundation is a $3.5 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development in Detroit. In 2016, the Board of Trustees approved 474 grants totaling $141.5 million, and made 14 social investment commitments totaling $50.8 million. For more information, visit www.kresge.org.