The First Cohort of the Higher Education Readiness Program: Evaluation and Results

IIE's new report HER Initiative to Lead Change: The Power of Education”presents the findings from a 2-year evaluation of the Higher Education Readiness (HER) pilot program in Ethiopia, an IIE Initiative. The HER pilot program provided secondary school scholarships to 100 female students from underserved populations in Ethiopia, with the ultimate goal of contributing to their success in secondary school and university enrollment. IIE’s Center for Academic Mobility Research and Impact measured the outcomes and impacts of the cohort of HER students against a comparison group of girls from the same schools who did not participate in HER.

Download the HER Report (1.3 MB, PDF)

The HER Initiative to Lead Change evaluation report provides evidence of how a comprehensive pathway program like HER can increase high school graduation rates and matriculation to university, enhance female self-confidence and leadership abilities, and equip young women with skills necessary to succeed in life. The report also outlines how the HER program’s comprehensive approach to girls’ education ensured sustainability and change that went beyond the immediate student impacts, demonstrating the multiplier effect of the program on the girls schools and communities.

Key Findings:

  • Increased graduation and retention rates.
  • Over 95% of participating students graduated from high school. The national average for female graduation from high school in Ethiopia is 83%.1
  • Over 60% of participating students matriculated to university. These numbers were higher than the female average in their respective schools and the 44% average in Ethiopia.
  • HER students achieved the highest results in the national exam in both schools.

Increased socio-emotional skills:

  • HER students indicated greater leadership skills and qualities than before the program.
  • HER students discovered for themselves that their value as women is equal to that of men. This understanding changed how they perceive themselves and affected their behavior and plans for the future. “Even if I am a girl there is nothing which will hinder me to reach my goal.”

Increased understanding of importance of education among participants2:

  • 96% of HER students better understood the importance of education. HER students were more likely to stay in school in comparison to other female students not enrolled in the program.

Increased understanding of importance of education among HER guardians:

HER guardians positively changed their understanding of the importance of girls’ education. “The educational support that is given to her has changed me too. I have understood on practice why educating women is educating the society.” (HER guardian)

98% of guardians increased their knowledge about how to better support female students in their studies.

Participating schools increased their commitment to girls’ education:

  • A participating HER school collaborated with the local office of the Ministry of Education to involve students in extracurricular activities.
  • The Girls’ School Club won a HER school a prize for their efforts around girls’ education from two Ethiopian government agencies: the Ministry of Youth, Women and Children Affairs and the local chapter of the Ministry of Education.

The Power of HER Education

The findings of the HER program indicate that the pilot provided successful pathways for young women from marginalized communities in Ethiopia. The report highlights the findings of a two-year comparative study, the stories of several students and their families, as well as the potential multiplier impact of the program on the communities and schools of HER students. Additionally, the report includes best practices and lessons learned on the program implementation and impacts.

View the full report (1.3 MB, PDF)


1. The average is calculated for girls who have started high school. Joshi, R.D., Verspoor, A. (2013)
2. HER guardians include all primary caregivers for HER students, including parents, grandparents, and siblings