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IES Grant

Title: Evaluating the Long-Term Effects and the Costs of Two Community College Interventions
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Weiss, Michael Awardee: MDRC
Program: Postsecondary and Adult Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,584,722
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A100066

Co-Principal Investigator: Colleen Sommo

Purpose: Community colleges serve as an important doorway to higher education for a growing number of minority and low-income students, working adults, parents, and first-generation college students. A large number of such students who enter with the goal of completing a college degree are not successful. To address this problem, a number of innovative programs have been developed to support entering community college students at-risk for dropping out. This project will evaluate the long-term educational effects of two promising community college programs operated as part of the Opening Doors Demonstration, an efficacy study of programs aimed to help community college students succeed. It will also estimate the costs of operating the programs in comparison to the usual college services.

Project Activities: This project will analyze data from student transcripts, institutional data, and data from the National Student Clearinghouse to estimate program impacts on student persistence and success in community college. Institutional data will also be used to estimate the cost effectiveness of the programs by comparing cost per average program member to cost per average control group member.

Products: Products include published reports on the evidence of the long-term efficacy and cost effectiveness of two community college interventions designed to increase student success in college.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The evaluation will take place in two large, publicly funded community colleges — Chaffey College in Southern California and Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York.

Population: At Chaffey College, the study includes 444 students between the ages of 18 and 34 who were on academic or progress probation and who had earned fewer than 35 credits. At Kingsborough, the study includes 1,534 incoming freshmen between the ages of 17 and 34 who planned to attend college full-time during the day.

Intervention: The intervention at Chaffey, the "Enhanced Opening Doors Program," was designed to help probationary students perform better in college and move off probation. It consisted of a required "College Success" course, enhanced academic supports, and enhanced counseling. The intervention at Kingsborough was a "learning community" program that placed groups of freshmen into three linked classes their first semester. Participating students at Kingsborough also received enhanced counseling and a voucher to pay for their textbooks. The goal of Kingsborough's program was to improve students' academic experience and performance. Both programs operated between 2003 and 2007 and their short-term effects were evaluated as part of the multisite Opening Doors Demonstration.

Research Design and Methods: At each college, students were randomly assigned to participate in the program or to a control group that did not participate in the program activities. Long-term impacts of the programs are assessed up to 6 years after participation.

Control Condition: In the control condition, students received standard college services.

Key Measures: Credits earned and probation status (for Chaffey only), persistence, certificate and degree completion, and transfers to a four-year institution will be used to study student success. Cost effectiveness will be evaluated by comparing the gross costs of operating Opening Doors and regular college services, as well as net costs.

Data Analytic Strategy: Standard statistical tests, such as t-tests, will be used to compare average outcomes of the program group and control group members within each study site. Cost analysis will examine data from institutional data sources, the National Student Clearinghouse, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, and interviews with college staff. Financial outcomes include instructional costs per credit hour, cost of administering the Opening Doors program, and cost of providing supplemental services. A cost effectiveness measure will be calculated by subtracting the gross cost per control group student from the gross cost per program group student.

Products and Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Weiss, M.J., Mayer, A.K., Cullinan, D., Ratledge, A., Sommo, C., and Diamond, J. (2015). A Random Assignment Evaluation of Learning Communities at Kingsborough Community College—Seven Years Later. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 8(2), 189–217.

Weiss, M J., Visher, M.G., Weissman, E., and Wathington, H. (2015). The Impact of Learning Communities for Students in Developmental Education: A Synthesis of Findings From Randomized Trials at Six Community Colleges. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 37(4), 520–541.

Nongovernment report, issue brief, or practice guide

Sommo, C., Mayer, A.K., Rudd, T., and Cullinan, D. (2012). Commencement Day: Six-Year Effects of a Freshman Learning Community Program at Kingsborough Community College. New York: MDRC.

Weiss, M., Brock, T., Sommo, C., Rudd, T., and Turner, M. (2011). Serving Community College Students on Probation: Four-Year Findings from Chaffey College's Opening Doors Program. New York: MDRC.