Project Overview

This four-year $3.2 million federal grant enables the Pullias Center to implement an online, game-based college access intervention in 60 California schools and to conduct a random-control trial to assess the effects of game play on FAFSA and college application completion and college enrollment. Study partners include California Student Aid Commission, UC Merced’s Center for Educational Partnerships, USC’s Game Innovation Lab, the Get Schooled Foundation, and Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates (outside evaluators).

As per the randomization, 30 schools were given initial access to the intervention; participation was incentivized through a variety of measures. Online tools were shared with the class of 2017 over the past two years and included a strategy game where students role-play a college applicant, an online platform with information and interactive activities, and an incentive structure where students earn prizes for themselves and their school. The intervention is designed to increase college-going efficacy, build college knowledge, foster college-related dialogue on campuses, and incentive students to apply to college and for financial aid. We are tracking these interim outcomes through quantitative, qualitative, and backend, server-level data collection. Final study outcomes include: (1) FAFSA and Dream Act submissions, (2) college application submission, and (3) college enrollment by school. Findings related to these outcomes will be available in fall of 2017. The entire sample of 60 schools will have access to the intervention during the 2017-2018 academic school years.


Pullias Center for Higher Education

Zoe Corwin
Director of Research
Corwin has conducted research on college preparation programs and access to financial aid for underserved students, college pathways for foster youth and the role of social media and games in postsecondary access and completion.
Bill Tierney
Bill Tierney brings over two decades of experience conducting research on college access for underrepresented youth, as well as improving the performance of colleges and universities. He is committed to informing policies and practices related to educational equity and postsecondary effectiveness.
Carlos Galan
Outreach Advisor
Carlos earned his bachelor’s in History and a minor in Public Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). While at UCLA, he directed a tutoring and mentoring program at Bell Gardens High School.
Tattiya Maruco
Research Project Specialist
Tattiya Maruco is a Research Project Specialist for the Pullias Center for Higher Education. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Psychology, with a minor in English Literature, from San Francisco State University, and her Master's in Social Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Amanda Ochsner
Amanda Ochsner is a postdoctoral research associate at the Pullias Center for Higher Education in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. There she is working on the Pullias Center’s First in the World grant.
Suneal Kolluri
Suneal earned his bachelor’s degree from UCLA, and his master’s from Stanford. His research interests include college access and persistence for low-income youth and underrepresented youth of color.
Antar Tichavakunda
Antar Tichavakunda was born and raised in Washington, DC. He attended Brown University and majored in Education Studies/Policy. In college he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and was heavily involved in Black affinity groups and mentoring programs.

Game Innovation Lab

Tracy Fullerton
Tracy Fullerton is an experimental game designer, professor and chair of the Interactive Media & Games Division of the School of Cinematic Arts, as well as director of the interdisciplinary USC Games program, a collaboration with the Viterbi School of Engineering.
Sean Bouchard
Game Lab Research Associate
A game designer and technology lead at the Game Innovation Lab®, Sean’s work has been featured at festivals including the Independent Game Festival, the IndieCade Festival, the Meaningful Play Conference, and TEDxUSC.

USC Research Affiliates

Stephen Aguilar
Ph.D., Education and Psychology, University of Michigan
Dr. Stephen AguiIar is a Provost Postdoctoral Scholar for Faculty Diversity in Informatics and Digital Knowledge at Rossier. His areas of expertise include motivation and self-regulated learning as they relate to the design and implementation of educational technologies.
Robert Danielson
Ph.D. Urban Education Policy
Robert W. Danielson is a Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education. At Rossier, Robert works with Dr. Gale Sinatra to research conceptual change of socio-scientific concepts.
Gale Sinatra
Professor of Education and Psychology
Gale’s areas of expertise include climate science education, evolution education, learning theory, knowledge construction, conceptual change learning, literacy acquisition, assessment, and the public understanding of science.
Dennis Wixon
Visiting Associate Professor
Dennis has over three decades of experience in the field of user research. He helped develop research methods such as RITE (Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation) and TRUE (Tracking Real-time User Experience) that are now widely used in the industry.

Advisory Board

Alan Arkatov

Katzman/Ernst Chair in Educational Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation

USC Rossier School of Education

Louis Gomez

Professor of Education & John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning

University of California, Los Angeles

Mimi Ito

Professor in Residence and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning

University of California, Irvine

Bonnie Reiss

Vice Chairman

University of California Board of Regants

Tara Nell Roth


Goldhirsh Foundation

Michele Siqueiros

Executive Director

Campaign for College Opportunity

Peter J. Taylor


ECMC Foundation

Special Thanks to Previous Advisory Board Members

David Conley

Professor & Director

University of Oregon, Educational Leadership

Laird Malamed

Chief Operating Officer

Oculus VR

Susan Kemnitzer
Foundation Program Officer
Valerie J. Shute

Professor, Ed Psych and Learning Systems

Florida State University

Kati London

Senior Researcher

Microsoft Research

Julia Lopez

President and CEO

College Access Foundation


MTV Get Schooled Foundation capitalizes on the media and messengers of popular culture to inspire and motivate teens on their educational journey through high school and into higher education.

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The California Student Aid Commission’s (CSAC) provides financial aid policy analysis and leadership, in partnership with California’s colleges, universities, financial institutions, and financial aid associations.

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Center for Educational Partnerships’ provides student, school and parent-centered services that strive to connect K-12 goals with the University’s efforts to ensure a qualified and diverse student body.

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Augenblick, Palaich and Associates Consulting (APA) use of a variety of research techniques to help clients solve problems to meet student performance goals and improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of the nation’s public schools.

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  • University of Southern California Office of the Provost
  • TG
  • The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • U.S Department of Education
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