Research Meets Practice at UW-Madison Student Success Lab

February 20, 2019

Share this

The University of Wisconsin-Madison this month celebrated the grand opening of its Student Success Through Applied Research (SSTAR) Lab, an initiative that brings research and practice together through projects that address specific needs on campus in collaboration with staff who work directly with students.

The SSTAR Lab, which is housed in the Office of Student Financial Aid, may be the first of its kind to develop a partnership with a financial aid unit, according to the university’s news release.

“The people who work in financial aid have to be aware of a range of policy, compliance, and regulatory issues,” said SSTAR Lab Director Nicholas Hillman. “As a researcher, if you don’t have insight into how financial aid works in a real-world setting, it’s going to have less of a practical impact.”

SSTAR Lab Director Nicholas Hillman
Nicholas Hillman, director of the SSTAR Lab, stands outside UW-Madison’s Student Financial Aid Office. Photo by Sarah Maughan and used with permission.

Although the official opening was this month, the Lab’s work began about a year ago. Their inaugural project modelled costs and outcomes of UW-Madison’s Bucky’s Tuition Promise program, which covers tuition and fees for in-state students whose family income is below $56,000. The program was a great success, with nearly one-fifth of incoming in-state students benefiting from it.

Future projects will address issues such as loan repayment rates and underserved students. Education Dive says the SSTAR Lab comes at a time when many institutions are exploring alternative financing models to help students better afford their education.

Lab staff also intend to give presentations at the Wisconsin ACT Conference and the Success 2019 conference at Northcentral Technical College (WI), both taking place in March.

—Carly O’Connell

At a Glance

Member Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Initiative: SSTAR Lab

Goal: Use applied academic research to guide, support, and partner with practitioners whose work aims to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for current and future college students.

Become a member: As a member of ACE, you join more than 1,700 organizations that collectively promote, protect and advocate for students, faculty and administrators in higher education. ACE is the most visible and influential higher education association in the nation, and we are at the center of federal policy debates concerning legislation that affects campuses across the country. See more on the ACE website.

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please contact us.

Keep Reading

Meeting Student Success Goals During a Crisis

Rebecca Karoff, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at The University of Texas System (UT), and Susan Cates, CEO of ACUE, joined ACE’s Sherri Hughes for a conversation on how the UT System is making meaningful progress on student success goals in a volatile and stressful time for students, faculty, and institutions.

August 24, 2020

Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Fostering Familial Learning Environments for Student Success

By embracing expansive ideas of success, HBCU leaders inspire their students to strive beyond degree completion and understand how collaboration, civic engagement, and entre­preneurship are essential attributes in a new knowledge economy and global citizenry.

October 4, 2017

It Begins with Difficult Conversations: How Community College Leaders Can Support Faculty-led Student Success Efforts

If community colleges want to make a difference in student persistence and attainment—and to make the improvement sustainable over time—these efforts must be led by those on campus who have the most frequent contact with students: the faculty. Carrie B. Kisker, a director of the Center for the Study of Community Colleges, looks at where to begin.

October 30, 2019