Research Meets Practice at UW-Madison Student Success Lab
February 20, 2019

The University of Wisconsin-Madison this month celebrated the grand opening of its Student Success Through Applied Research (SSTAR) Lab, an initiative that brings research and practice together through projects that address specific needs on campus in collaboration with staff who work directly with students.

The SSTAR Lab, which is housed in the Office of Student Financial Aid, may be the first of its kind to develop a partnership with a financial aid unit, according to the university’s news release.

“The people who work in financial aid have to be aware of a range of policy, compliance, and regulatory issues,” said SSTAR Lab Director Nicholas Hillman. “As a researcher, if you don’t have insight into how financial aid works in a real-world setting, it’s going to have less of a practical impact.”

Although the official opening was this month, the Lab’s work began about a year ago. Their inaugural project modelled costs and outcomes of UW-Madison’s Bucky’s Tuition Promise program, which covers tuition and fees for in-state students whose family income is below $56,000. The program was a great success, with nearly one-fifth of incoming in-state students benefiting from it.

Future projects will address issues such as loan repayment rates and underserved students. Education Dive says the SSTAR Lab comes at a time when many institutions are exploring alternative financing models to help students better afford their education.

Lab staff also intend to give presentations at the Wisconsin ACT Conference and the Success 2019 conference at Northcentral Technical College (WI), both taking place in March.

At a Glance

Member Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Initiative: SSTAR Lab

Goal: Use applied academic research to guide, support, and partner with practitioners whose work aims to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for current and future college students.