Research will create best practices for programs to support vulnerable populations

The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) is partnering with Cleveland State University and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to research programs being run by CUMU member institutions that serve opportunity youth—young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working.

The four-month research project will be carried out by the Center for Community Planning & Development in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at CSU. Under the direction of project manager Molly Schnoke, the research team will work to identify and inventory opportunity youth programs; establish a set of best practices for program implementation; and develop recommendations for institutions who are starting and/or engaging in programs to support opportunity youth.

“We are very excited to be working with CUMU to gain a better understanding of the re-engagement strategies of our colleagues and peers at other member institutions. We hope to provide a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges to their approaches in serving youth with school, employment or key social supports,” said Schnoke.

There are nearly five million opportunity youth living in the United States, which is roughly one in eight members of this age group.  A variety of causes are responsible for the high rates of disconnection, especially the barriers created by structures and systems. Educational and career pathways can be difficult for youth to navigate and are often not tailored to their aspirations, needs and challenges.

CUMU’s research and engagement agendas reflect the traits and ambitions of its 100+ member institutions and the communities they serve. This research project is in direct response to the needs of CUMU members and was developed from a meeting with member institutions and the Annie E. Casey Foundation at the 2018 CUMU Annual Conference.

“The Annie E. Casey Foundation wanted to know what universities are doing to serve young people across the United States who aren’t engaged in traditional educational or career pathways,” said Charles Rutheiser, a senior associate in the Casey Foundation’s Center for Civic Sites and Community Change. “We are excited to partner with CUMU on this work and look forward to what their efforts with Cleveland State University uncover.”

Cleveland State University was awarded the contract following a competitive request for proposal process. The research team will undertake four major components to accomplish this project: a literature review, a scan of the field with summary inventory of opportunity youth programs being provided by CUMU member institutions, a survey of opportunity youth program participants, and a case study analysis of six CUMU member opportunity youth programs.

“Many opportunity youth are eager to further their education, gain work experience, and help their communities,” said Bobbie Laur, CUMU executive director. “This research project will help to identify new pathways to employment and educational opportunities across the CUMU membership.”

If your institution is working to serve opportunity youth and you would like to share information about your program, please contact Molly Schnoke at 216-523-7495 or

Founded in 1989, the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) is the longest-running and largest organization committed to serving and connecting North America’s urban and metropolitan universities and their partners. CUMU focuses on strengthening institutions that are developing new responses to the pressing educational, economic, and social issues of the day. Learn more at

The Center for Community Planning & Development is housed in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. The mission of the Center is to strengthen the practice of planning and community development through independent research, technical assistance, civic education, and engagement. The Center works in partnership with public, private, and nonprofit organizations, local governments, and development and planning professionals. The expertise of the Center lies in 1) planning, program development, and evaluation; 2) public policy research; 3) data development and dissemination; and 4) convening and engaged learning.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes. Our work focuses on strengthening families, building stronger communities and ensuring access to opportunity, because children need all three to succeed. We advance research and solutions to overcome the barriers to success, help communities demonstrate what works and influence decision makers to invest in strategies based on solid evidence. As a private philanthropy based in Baltimore and working across the country, we make grants that help federal agencies, states, counties, cities and neighborhoods create more innovative, cost-effective responses to the issues that negatively affect children: poverty, unnecessary disconnection from family and communities with limited access to opportunity. Since 1948, these efforts have translated into more informed policies and practices and yielded positive results for larger numbers of kids and families.