New gift to fund long-term study of college retention

Mary and Daniel James want to help researchers find out what helps first-generation college students persist

A new gift to the USC Rossier School of Education will bolster research that seeks to understand how personalized learning models may help high school students succeed and persist in college.

A half-million dollar gift from Mary and Daniel James will allow USC Rossier professors to study the transition of students at USC Hybrid High School to college. The couple is particularly interested in the persistence of first-generation college students, who often enter higher education at a disadvantage.

“One of the things that we hope to learn is, what helps students? And where do they struggle?” said Mary James. “Maybe there are stumbling blocks we didn’t know were stumbling blocks.”

USC Hybrid High School, founded by USC Rossier in 2012, is overseen by the Ednovate charter management organization. The Ednovate model emphasizes personalized learning in combination with modern technology and a college-going culture. The model has already demonstrated early success, with 100 percent of the school’s 2016 graduating class getting accepted into four-year colleges.