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Pullias Center to expand access to college application game

USC Rossier-based team receives grant to broaden the reach of Mission: Admission in California schools

Mission: Admission game
Mission: Admission helps students prepare for college. (Image/courtesy of FutureBound)

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $3.2 million grant through its First in the World program to the Pullias Center for Higher Education. The investment will allow the center to expand the reach of its online college access game, Mission: Admission, created in collaboration with USC’s Game Innovation Lab.

Over four years, a project team will implement the college application game in schools across California through a Web-based platform that students can access on mobile devices.

The First in the World program has announced $75 million in grants to 24 universities. The support is intended to spur the development of innovations in postsecondary outcomes, college affordability and evidence-based practices.

Housed at the USC Rossier School of Education, the Pullias Center has been at the forefront of college access and completion research for the past two decades. Most recently, researchers have studied the role of game-based learning on college aspirations and college-going efficacy, thus building scalable, engaging ways to support first-generation and underserved students as they learn about college.

“This is wonderful news that has the potential to significantly impact college-going rates throughout the country,” said University Professor William Tierney, co-director of the Pullias Center. “The grant enables us to convene a stellar group of researchers, practitioners and game designers to tackle a persistent problem in a new way.”

The role-playing game, along with an extensive student-centered social media campaign and support materials for teachers and counselors, offers schools online tools to actively engage students in preparing for college.

Previous research conducted on the game shows that game play positively affects a student’s knowledge of college.

“This grant will not only allow us to make the game available in classrooms, but for the first time, we will be able to track students’ behavior in order to assess the effects of game play on college enrollment,” said Zoë Corwin, director of research at the Pullias Center.

The project, which will be directed by Tierney and Corwin, brings together a collaborative research team including Gale Sinatra of USC Rossier, Dennis Wixon of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and an independent evaluation team led by Robert Reichardt of Augenblick, Palaich and Associates. Key development partners include game designers from FutureBound, a company that grew out of Pullias’ online suite of games, and social media experts from MTV’s Get Schooled Foundation. Dissemination and implementation will be facilitated through a partnership with the California Student Aid Commission and affiliates.

The new grant builds upon the research and evaluation funded by the Institute of Education Sciences in the Department of Education, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation and the TG Foundation. The project began with internal support from the Office of the Provost at USC.

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