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Problem Title: The Goodgrant Challenge

  Year: 2016      
  Student Level: Undergraduate      
  Source: MCM      
  Commentary: Yes (1)      
  Student Papers: Yes (4)      

The Goodgrant Foundation is a charitable organization that wants to help improve educational performance of undergraduates attending colleges and universities in the United States. To do this, the foundation intends to donate a total of $100,000,000 (US100 million) to an appropriate group of schools per year, for five years, starting July 2016. In doing so, they do not want to duplicate the investments and focus of other large grant organizations such as the Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation.

Your team has been asked by the Goodgrant Foundation to develop a model to determine an optimal investment strategy that identifies the schools, the investment amount per school, the return on that investment, and the time duration that the organization's money should be provided to have the highest likelihood of producing a strong positive effect on student performance. This strategy should contain a 1 to N optimized and prioritized candidate list of schools you are recommending for investment based on each candidate school’s demonstrated potential for effective use of private funding, and an estimated return on investment (ROI) defined in a manner appropriate for a charitable organization such as the Goodgrant Foundation.

To assist your effort, the attached data file ( contains information extracted from the U.S. National Center on Education Statistics (, which maintains an extensive database of survey information on nearly all post-secondary colleges and universities in the United States, and the College Scorecard data set ( which contains various institutional performance data. Your model and subsequent strategy must be based on some meaningful and defendable subset of these two data sets.

In addition to the required one-page summary for your MCM submission, your report must include a letter to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Goodgrant Foundation, Mr. Alpha Chiang, that describes the optimal investment strategy, your modeling approach and major results, and a brief discussion of your proposed concept of a return-on-investment (ROI) that the Goodgrant Foundation should adopt for assessing the 2016 donation(s) and future philanthropic educational investments within the United States. This letter should be no more than two pages in length.

The data file contains:

  • Problem C - IPEDS UID for Potential Candidate Schools.xlsx
  • Problem C - Most Recent Cohorts Data (Scorecard Elements).xlsx
  • Problem C - CollegeScorecardDataDictionary-09-08-2015.xlsx
  • IPEDS Variables for Data Selection.pdf

    Click here to download the data (

Judges' Commentary: The Goodgrant Challenge Papers

David H. Olwell
Dean and Professor
Hal and Inge Marcus School of Engineering
Saint Martin's University

Carol Overdeep
Mathematics Dept.
Saint Martin's University

Katie Oliveras
Mathematics Dept.
Seattle University

  Student Papers      

Team 42939: An Optimal Strategy of Donation for Educational Purpose

Tsinghua University, China


Team 47823: The Optimal Investment Strategy Based on the Large-scale Non-linear Constraint Optimization Methods

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, China


Team 50193: An Educational Donation Mechanism Based On Data Insight

Tsinghua University, China


Team 52815: A Multilevel Bayesian Model based on Economic Contribution of University Alumni

Virginia Tech, VA, USA