Reference Resources iconReview Protocols

Enrolling in postsecondary institutions and completing a degree or certificate is one of the primary pathways for economic success and is increasingly required for employment in a variety of fields. Yet, only 25% of students enrolled at public two-year institutions and 62% of students at private nonprofit two-year institutions complete their programs within three years (McFarland et al., 2019). At four-year institutions, 60% of students who start at public institutions and 66% of students who start at private nonprofit institutions complete their programs at any institution within six years (McFarland et al., 2019). The first year of college is critical, with about 19% of first-time full-time students in 4-year institutions and 38% of first-time full-time students in 2-year institutions failing to return to the same institution for their second year (McFarland et al., 2019). Supporting postsecondary students to promote academic performance, attendance, retention, and ultimately degree completion is a focus of many postsecondary initiatives.

This protocol focuses broadly on academic and nonacademic interventions that aim to support postsecondary success, including first year experience courses, credit recovery programs, linked learning communities, residential learning communities, interventions focused on financial aid, and student counseling and mentoring interventions. Systematic reviews of evidence in this topic area address the following research questions:

  • Which interventions are effective at helping students improve access and enrollment in college?
  • Which interventions are effective at helping students increase credit accumulation and persistence in college?
  • Which interventions are effective at helping students improve academic achievement?
  • Which interventions are effective at helping students complete college?
  • Which interventions are effective at helping students improve their prospects in the labor market?
  • Is the reviewed intervention more or less effective for certain subgroups of students (including first-generation college students, women, racial/ethnic minorities, academically underprepared students, students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds (e.g., Pell Grant recipients), and/or community college students)?

Protocol Details

  • Version: 4.0
  • Released: August 2019
  • Version: 3.0
  • Released: July 2016

What is a Protocol?

A review protocol defines the scope of a systematic review. Developed with substantive experts, the protocol defines the parameters for the review, including the research, populations, settings, and outcomes. The protocol also specifies details of the literature search and any topic-specific applications of the design standards.

Protocol versions reflect the version of WWC standards in effect when the protocol was released. Protocol versions that predate the current version of the WWC standards handbook can be used to identify acceptable outcome domains for review within a given topic. The current WWC standards are used to guide the review of studies with acceptable outcomes.

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