About the Center

American University’s new Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success (CPRS) is an outgrowth of the Reach Higher Initiative and in response to a recommendation made in The State of School Counseling: Revisiting the Path Forward Report (Brown, Hatch, Holcomb-McCoy, Martin, Mcleod, Owen & Savitz-Romer, 2017). 

The recommendation called for the creation of a national research center charged with identifying new and effective models to strengthen postsecondary pathways for all students, especially low-income and first-generation students.




To increase equitable and accessible pathways to postsecondary success for all youth.


The Center will create an aligned system, driven by student outcomes to disseminate new knowledge and discovery of college and career readiness and persistence models, while simultaneously connecting this new knowledge to K-12 and higher education policy formation.

Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy

Dean, School of Education

American University

Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy joined American University in 2016 as the Dean of the School of Education. In concert with her colleagues in the College of Arts and Sciences, she concentrates her efforts on recruiting and supporting a more research-active and diverse faculty, developing outstanding new curricula in education, and building bridges to school districts and education industries around the globe.Previous to this role, Dr. Holcomb-McCoy served as the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Vice Dean of Academic Affairs and Chair in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. She has held appointments as Associate Professor of Counselor Education at the University of Maryland, College Park and Assistant Professor and Director of the School Counseling Program at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

Professional colleagues have recognized her with many awards for outstanding multicultural/diversity research, excellence in teaching, and exemplar service. She served as a Faculty Lilly Fellow at the University of Maryland and in 2016, she was selected as an American Counseling Association (ACA) Fellow for her significant contributions in scientific achievement and teaching/training. Because of her expertise in college advising and counseling, Dr. Holcomb-McCoy was selected to participate as a consultant to the Obama Administration's Reach Higher Initiative. In July 2014, she was one of the plenary speakers at the White House's Summit on Higher Education held at Harvard University. She Co-Led the American University White House Convening “Connecting the Dots: Cultural Competence, Counseling, and College and Career Readiness of Underserved Youth” in November 2016.

Laura Owen

Inaugural Director, Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success

American University

Dr. Laura Owen, a research professor at American University, focuses on evaluating the impact of interventions and initiatives designed to address the persistent equity and access issues that so many students across the country face. Previously, Dr. Owen was an assistant professor and director of the school counseling program at San Diego State University (SDSU) and held an appointment as assistant professor in counseling at Johns Hopkins University. A prior urban school counselor and district counseling supervisor, she is a passionate advocate for closing college opportunity gaps.

Dr. Owen has worked collaboratively with leaders from across the country to address systems issues impacting student postsecondary outcomes. Dr. Owen was a panelist at the 2014 Harvard White House Convening where she discussed research-based approaches to address financial aid issues and college affordability, the college enrollment process, and the summer transition between high school and college.

She co-led the 2014 San Diego White House Convening on "Strengthening School Counseling and College Advising" and assisted with planning for the American University White House Convening on “Connecting the Dots: Cultural Competence, Counseling, and College and Career Readiness of Underserved Youth” in November 2016. Dr. Owen was a cofounder of the National Consortium for School Counseling and Post-Secondary Success (NCSCPS), which formed to support the former first lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher campaign.

Dr. Owen believes that all children, regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status, or disability, have the right to receive the highest quality education available.