Improving student success and college performance


Recognized national experts who have guided state, system, and college policy and practice reforms from launch to implementation.


James Applegate, Ph.D. and Patrick Kelly, Ph.D. bring decades of experience working in higher education policy and research.


The commitment will always be to adapt effective solutions to the unique demands of each state, system, or college.

What we Do

We Cover an Array of Higher Ed Consulting Services

College Success for ALL students

Applegate and Kelly have worked successfully for decades to increase student college success by improving recruitment, persistence, and completion through innovative use of data and support for sustainable implementation strategies. Earning a college degree and certifications has never been more important. The rising talent demands of the workforce driven by automation and AI now make college a requirement for a middle-class life. We focus much of our work on closing college achievement and workforce opportunity gaps by race/ethnicity, age, and gender. Closing opportunity gaps is vital to achieving the college attainment goals set by the nation and many states. More importantly, it is essential to realizing social justice and meeting workforce needs. Demographic shifts in many states threaten the fiscal health of many colleges. Effective strategies to address the needs of the underserved is now not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to insure college sustainability. We have and will continue to help colleges implement proven strategies at scale that benefit both students and college revenue streams. Given our experiences, we are equipped to support innovative use of data to identify challenges and opportunities and implement what works. Failing to meet the needs of the underserved (e.g., low income, students of color, adult learners) poses a threat to the economic vitality of institutions and contributes to income inequality and social injustice in society.

Strategic Planning and Policy Assistance

We are dedicated to working with partners to develop identify strategic opportunities using metrics and analytics and working with them through implementation of sustainable strategies to meet their goals. We know what success takes. Strategic plans are only as good as the implementation strategies and metrics they include. They are only as effective as the level of stakeholder buy-in leaders are able to inspire across multiple constituencies. Smart policy at the state and institutional levels is key to scaling effective practice. Over the years many policies have gained popularity despite any clear evidence of effectiveness and with multiple unintended negative consequences. Applegate and Kelly have helped leaders across the nation navigate the complicated terrain of higher education practice and policy to identify and implement the most effective policies for their particular state or institution. We know the difference between what sounds good and what has worked consistently across states and institutions.

Building Productive Partnerships

Given the demands being placed on colleges today and the growing revenue challenges, few can hope to succeed without building productive partnerships with business, private philanthropy, and non-profits. Higher education has a poor reputation for building partnerships with these external stakeholders that are sustainable and produce real wins for all involved. We have worked successfully to create such productive collaborations that have real impact and advance the missions of colleges and their partners. The partnership model we bring is adaptive, sustainable, and scalable, but requires hard internal work by institutions. The return on investment has proven worth it again and again in our experience.

Research Services

It is impossible to solve a problem unless you clearly understand it. That understanding requires well designed research, implemented with rigor and a commitment to understand “brutal” facts. Applegate and Kelly have helped design and fund such research with multiple states, systems, and colleges as well as conducting recognized research at the national level. They have helped identify problems and solutions that improve student success, equity, institutional revenue and finances, advocacy strategies, and support gained from partnerships with external stakeholders, among others.

Get Started

Don’t Let the Complexities of Higher Education Impede Your Progress

Whether the goal is to enhance revenue streams, identify barriers to student enrollment and success through sophisticated data use, increase efficiency and effectiveness, engage faculty, or implement state/system policies that maximize return on investment while minimizing unintended negative outcomes, Applegate and Kelly can support identification and implementation of effective strategies gleaned from work with hundreds of institutions and multiple states over decades.

About Us

No client is too big or too small

Applegate and Kelly know what produces success at every level for individual colleges to states. The work can range from improving student recruitment at post secondary colleges to create change at scale in a state or system of higher education, their experience covers the landscape of higher education.

Organizations Patrick and Jim have served

  • Achieve
  • American College Testing Service (ACT)
  • American Council on Education (ACE)
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL)
  • Council of State Governments (CGS)
  • Education Commission of the States (ECS)
  • Educational Testing Service (ETS)
  • Excelencia in Education
  • Higher education SHEEO and system offices in multiple states
  • Lumina Foundation
  • Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC)
  • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
  • National Governors Association (NGA)
  • Pell Institute of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE)
  • Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)
  • Universities and community colleges across the country

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Nelson Mandela

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Join Us

Our Clients Are Like Family

There is no single silver bullet to address these 21st Century challenges. However, through development of a multi-dimensional strategy with mutually reinforcing components states and institutions can dramatically improve their financial position and their service to students. There are proven practices. Success requires not only identification of appropriate strategies for states, systems, and institutions, but sustained support in effective implementation of those strategies.

Higher Education Resources & Articles

Mapping the Future of Higher Education

Mapping the Future of Higher Education

Cemeteries, where ideas have gone to die, are filled with claims over the decades that higher education was headed for a radical transformation or even just significant change. The tombstones all read, “They were wrong. Nothing much changed.” Any claim that this time...

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