NEFE Announces Research Commitment with RAND Corporation


Latest Funding to Investigate the Landscape of Income Share Agreements in Higher Education

DENVER—The National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) has announced a grant partnership with the RAND Corporation to research Income Share Agreements (ISAs), a product in the higher education space to assist students. NEFE will provide a $241,210 grant for this project, which is a continuation of its ongoing research priorities.

“As we celebrate our 30th anniversary in 2022, we reflect on our important activities and milestones over the past three decades. Among those are the very thoughtful and deliberate research projects that have led to various levels of advancement for the field of financial education,” says Billy Hensley, Ph.D., president and CEO of NEFE. “We remain deeply committed to curating top-tier, rigorous studies from some of the most respected researchers focused on financial well-being. This project undoubtedly continues that pledge.”

ISAs are a financing mechanism with the potential to expand access to postsecondary education as a tiered funding model, based on income level. The RAND Corporation researchers – Melanie Zaber, Ph.D., Katherine Carman, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Steiner – will examine how ISA structure, implementation and readability of materials vary by program characteristics in ways that could affect systemic inequity, generating actionable insight for equitable marketing and implementation. This project is expected to take 18 months and will result in several products to assist consumers make informed choices regarding student debt.

“We are excited that NEFE has chosen to be an active partner on this project, providing funding and support as we explore this area,” says Dr. Zaber, the project’s principal investigator. “Our work will lead to a detailed ISA inventory, a decision tool for students and a research report that can be a catalyst for even greater understanding of this important topic.”

NEFE began awarding research grant funding in 2006 and has worked with 26 different organizations in that time. In 2021, NEFE surpassed the $5 million funding milestone for rigorous, innovative and actionable research that increases the field’s body of knowledge, provides insight into financial behavior and contributes to a better understanding of effective educational practices.

“This latest research on ISAs aligns well with the type of work NEFE has funded recently; necessary foundational work that operates as a jumping point for future research. We continue to receive incredible proposals and are excited by the projects being conceived by the top research organizations,” says Jill Jones, Ph.D., managing director of Research at NEFE.

A greater focus on research process and priorities is a key objective of the NEFE Institute, an arm of NEFE that advances high-impact, scholarly research and facilitates collaboration with practitioners, advocates and policymakers. The NEFE Institute is managed by Beth Bean, Ph.D., senior vice president, Research and Impact.

“Our organizational focus on the NEFE Institute is expected to advance our research work by providing new opportunities to educate key audiences and decision-makers,” says Bean.

Read more on NEFE’s research funding priorities and strategy.

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