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IES Grant

Title: Connecting Community College Students to Public and Community Resources: An Experimental Evaluation of Single Stop
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Daugherty, Lindsay Awardee: RAND Corporation
Program: Postsecondary and Adult Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (07/01/2020 - 06/30/2025) Award Amount: $3,299,437
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305A200101

Co-Principal Investigators: Unlu, Fatih; Cady, Clare

Purpose: Studies indicate that many college students face major issues with financial and basic needs insecurity. Colleges are increasingly looking for ways to help students to address the life challenges they face that act as barriers to successful degree and certificate completion. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the implementation, impact, and costs of a widely used intervention designed to support such students called Single Stop.

Project Activities: Researchers will implement a randomized controlled trial across 10 open and broad access colleges to evaluate the impact of Single Stop with approximately 6,400 students. They will measure the impact of Single Stop on persistence and transfer, completion of a degree or certificate, and credit accumulation through 3 years after program receipt. They will also gather information about implementation and the cost effectiveness of the intervention.

Products: The researchers will share the findings of their study via conference proceedings and peer-reviewed publications. They will also prepare a final dataset, as specified in the IES Public Access Policy.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in 10 open and broad access colleges in the North Carolina and Colorado that serve diverse populations of students according to economic resources, race/ethnicity, and age.

Sample: The study sample will be drawn from students enrolled in a first-year freshman seminar or student success course. The researchers anticipate recruiting an average of 1,000 students per college over 2 semesters, for a total of at least 10,000 students across the 10 colleges. They expect to randomize at least 6,400 students who consent to participate in the study, complete a baseline survey, and meet eligibility requirements.

Intervention: The Single Stop model offers students screenings for public benefits, assistance to those eligible with program applications, referrals to community providers that can assist with other life challenges, and access to free tax assistance on-campus. Participating colleges will establish Single Stop sites just prior to the start of recruitment and intervention delivery in the spring 2021 semester. Students assigned to the treatment group will immediately be connected to an online screening for public benefit eligibility after randomization and provided with results on eligibility for public benefits programs after completing the screening. Treatment students will also receive personalized and ongoing outreach from Single Stop staff for two semesters to encourage use of other services (e.g., support with benefits applications, referrals to community providers, tax services).

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will randomize delivery of the intervention within campuses at the student level. They will obtain consent from students enrolled in a freshman seminar or student success course between fall 2020 and fall 2021 and ask them to complete an online baseline survey. They will randomize students to condition within blocks at each campus, with students having a 50 percent probability of being assigned to treatment. Researchers will track all interactions with Single Stop and services received with Single Stop's centralized data system to assess treatment contrasts and non-compliance. They will rely on administrative college and National Student Clearinghouse data (transferred to the study team yearly starting in 2022), follow-up surveys (conducted approximately 8 months after recruitment), and Single Stop usage data (collected each semester fall 2020 through spring 2022) to assess outcomes, mediators, and treatment contrasts. They will carry out site visits (spring 2021 and fall 2021), staff surveys (end of spring 2021, fall 2021, and spring 2022 semesters), and interviews with national Single Stop staff (spring 2021 and spring 2022) to assess fidelity of implementation, adaptation, and barriers and facilitators to implementation.

Control Condition: Students in the control condition will have access to other common support services in a college (e.g., advising, financial aid) and can identify and access community resources and public benefits independently as any individual might, but they will not have the support of the Single Stop office dedicated to facilitating access to public and community resources through benefits screenings, on-campus services, referrals, and case management.

Key Measures: The key education outcomes include persistence and transfer, completion of a degree or certificate, and credit accumulation through 3 years after program receipt. The researchers will examine mediators, including self-reported sense of belonging, receipt of benefits and use of community services, and food and housing insecurity. They will examine moderators, including baseline financial, food, and housing insecurity, use of benefit programs, student characteristics associated with benefit eligibility (e.g., female, independent), and measures of implementation fidelity. Fidelity measures were designed in collaboration with Single Stop based on their expertise and rubrics developed to assess implementation internally.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use fixed and random effects estimators that account for the blocked random assignment of students within colleges. Models will include a rich set of baseline covariates to improve model prediction and precision of impact estimates. Researchers will conduct three types of moderation analyses that will examine impact heterogeneity by student baseline characteristics, their level of engagement with Single Stop, measures of implementation fidelity. They will assess mediators through structural equation modeling. They will collect and analyze qualitative data to identify facilitators, barriers, and other core themes around implementation using a three-step iterative process referred to as grounded-theory analysis.

Cost Analysis: Researchers will apply the principles of the ingredients method of cost effectiveness analysis to measure costs associated with personnel, facilities, and other program inputs such as in-kind donations of staff and participant time for the intervention versus the control condition. They will leverage data on impact to determine cost per-degree earned and will make comparisons to impacts obtained from similar interventions to assess cost effectiveness.