Research Methods

RFA partnered with the Center for Law and Social Policy during the 2017-2018 academic year to conduct mixed-methods research in six states engaged in equity-focused OBF policy. We conducted multi-day site visits to each state and talked to a wide array of policymakers involved in OBF. We also selected 2-3 institutions in each state to visit as well.  Throughout the course of our data collection and analysis, we examined an array of documents related to OBF, and developed detailed state policy profiles to ensure that we had a full understanding of context prior to our site visits. 


Data Sources. Findings are drawn from interviews with 141 policymakers and institutional leaders across 13 institutions in six states. In addition, our analysis also includes a thorough document analysis of legislation, descriptions of policy, meeting minutes, power point presentations, and state- and system-level planning documents.


State Sample. Our study states include Tennessee, Indiana, New Mexico, Oregon, Ohio, and Kentucky. Study states were selected because they provide variation along several important dimensions:

  • Phase of OBF development and implementation

  • Sectors in which OBF is implemented;

  • Approaches to equity metrics and weights;

  • Racial, ethnic and geographical diversity; and

  • Degree of political support and stakeholder involvement. 


In each state, interviews were conducted with policymakers, primarily state and system postsecondary leaders and staff. Twenty-six policymakers across six states were interviewed.  


Institutional Selection. Interviews were conducted at 13 institutions across the state sample (2 to 3 institutions per state). Institutions were selected in both the two- and four-year sectors and across variety of institutional missions. Selected institutions typically serve a high percentage of low-income, minority, under-prepared or rural students. Interviews were conducted with senior leaders and administrators whose work was directly impacted by OBF, such as the president, chief academic officer, chief financial officer, and key staff in government affairs, enrollment management, student services, and institutional research. A total of 115 institutional interviews were conducted.