Dr. David Monaghan, assistant professor of Sociology, was awarded a research grant by the Board of Directors for The Center for Rural Pennsylvania to examine the impact of college promise programs and delayed tuition payment plans in Pennsylvania. He will look at programs in Tamaqua, Allentown, Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania announced grant funding for research into promise programs in Pennsylvania and Monaghan said it seemed like a natural fit.

“As the board of directors considers grant proposals for funding, it choses the projects that will create a baseline of knowledge or build upon current information. These will then add to the policy discussions on how best to address the needs of our commonwealth’s rural communities,” said Senator Gene Ya, board chairman for the center.

According to Monaghan, the promise program movement began a decade ago with the goal of reducing tuition costs for qualifying students. Most operate at community colleges and cover whatever tuition is not funded through grants and other scholarships. To date there are over 180 local programs and 15 statewide.

As part of his postdoctoral work, he completed an in-depth study of a promise program in Wisconsin.

“I spent about two years gathering data – interviewing administrators, students, staff, and Milwaukee Public Schools counselors – and MATC gave me administrative data on their students. I am still wrapping up written results of that work. I learned a lot about how programs like this get created, and how sometimes they work very differently than they are advertised to work or intended to work by their designers,” he explained.

Promise programs were introduced as a way to address the rising cost of higher education but little is know about their inner workings and effectiveness. He is hopeful his research will change this.

He’s also excited to share this experience with students. The grant includes two part-time undergraduate research assistants.

“I haven’t begun hiring yet, but if anyone is interested they can email me at dbmonaghan@ship.edu,” he added.

He is expected to report his findings to the state legislature in the spring of 2023.