Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, April 6, 2016

La Follette student among finalists in policy challenge

Adam Johnson Adam Johnson

Two University of Wisconsin-Madison students, including one from the La Follette School of Public Affairs, were selected as a team finalist in the 2016 Policy Solutions Challenge USA competition. A team from the University of Utah’s Master of Public Policy program won the national competition, which concluded in March, for an unprecedented third consecutive year.

American University’s Master of Public Policy Program and the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service finished second and third, respectively. Judges selected six teams as finalists.

Second-year La Follette student Adam Johnson and Ellie Bruecker, a doctoral student in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis, presented their strategies for increasing the national rate of college completion in 10 years. They offered three recommendations for achieving the desired outcome:

• Early college admission
• Early notification of financial aid package
• Early enrollment in college-level or college credit-bearing courses

These three reforms comprise the A+ program: Admissions, Aid, Attainment. “A+ shifts the timeline of the college decision-making process to give students crucial information earlier in their high school careers,” they reported. “Earlier notification of admission and financial aid and attainment through dual enrollment will increase rates of college attendance and graduation.”

Johnson and Bruecker estimated that approximately 1.7 million additional degrees would be conferred after 10 years compared to the status quo without A+. Bringing attainment and cost together, their cost-effectiveness analysis was $18,528 per additional degree, primarily from supplying financial aid to every student. Their paper is online here

Nick Hillman, an assistant professor in UW-Madison’s Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis, was the students’ adviser, and Robert Haveman, professor emeritus of economics and public affairs, provided guidance for their cost-effectiveness analysis.

Policy Solutions Challenge USA is a national competition among teams of students from U.S. schools of public policy, public affairs, and public administration to develop innovative solutions to the most important policy problems facing the country. A team of five La Follette School students won first place in 2013.