WWC review of this study

A Path from Access to Success: Interim Findings from the Detroit Promise Path Evaluation

Ratledge, Alyssa; O'Donoghue, Rebekah; Cullinan, Dan; Camo-Biogradlija, Jasmina (2019). MDRC. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED594432

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grade

Reviewed: September 2019

At least one finding shows strong evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Access and enrollment outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

College enrollment

Detroit Promise Path vs. Business as usual

0 Semesters

Full sample;
1,268 students




Credit accumulation and persistence outcomes—Statistically significant positive effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Persistence into second semester

Detroit Promise Path vs. Business as usual

0 Semesters

Full sample;
1,268 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 59%
    Male: 41%

  • Urban
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Detroit’s Promise Path program serves students in Detroit, Michigan. Nearly half of residents under the age of 18 in Detroit, and over 70 percent of Detroit’s children, live in poverty (Federal Report). Fewer than 15 percent of city residents possess a bachelor’s degree or higher. Program participants were students at five Detroit-area community colleges: Henry Ford College, Macomb Community College, Oakland Community College, Schoolcraft College, and Wayne County Community College District. The rates of federal Pell Grant receipt for first-time, full-time students at these colleges range from 27 percent to 81 percent, with the highest percentages at the two colleges enrolling the greatest numbers of Detroit Promise recipients.

Study sample

Students that were eligible and enrolled in the study were 59% female, 41% male, 80% black, 12% Hispanic, and 8% other. On average study participants were 18 years old and 79% live with a parent with at least a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Intervention Group

Administered by the Detroit Regional Chamber, the "Detroit Promise" was launched in 2013 as the Detroit Scholarship Fund to help more of the city’s high school graduates enroll in college. A student can enroll in the scholarship within one year of finishing high school and is eligible for funds for up to three years. Students are directed to enroll in school full time, though this requirement is not enforced, meaning that students do not lose the scholarship if they drop below full-time status. The scholarship program covers any difference between a student’s financial aid and tuition for up to three years of attendance. To be eligible, the student must have graduated from a Detroit high school and be a resident of the city of Detroit. The "Detroit Promise Path" adds four components to the existing scholarship program: (1) it provides campus coaching and requires each student to meet with a coach starting in late summer before the first semester, twice per month during the school year, and is the core program component, (2) it provides a $50 gift card refillable each month for expenses not covered by financial aid, such as bus passes or books, as an incentive for students who meet with coach, (3) it engages students in the summer by encouraging enrollment or connecting them to local initiatives such as summer job programs, (4) it provides a management information system — Microsoft Dynamics 365 —that coaches use to track their email, text and phone outreach, student participation in coaching sessions, and financial incentives that come with participation in those activities. The program lasts all year, including summer semesters, when students are encouraged to enroll in summer classes (paid for by the scholarship) or engage in a local summer jobs program called "Grow Detroit’s Young Talent."

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison met the same eligibility criteria as those in the intervention condition and received the same scholarship as students in the Detroit Promise Path program. This scholarship has, since 2013, been made available to all Detroit residents who have a high school diploma. Students in the comparison condition did not receive any of the four other additional program components (i.e., coaching, stipend, summer opportunities, and management information system monitoring).

Support for implementation

During the first two-years of the program, MDRC partnered with Detroit Promise program staff to set up the program, monitor program implementation using the management information, and use cost-effective management techniques.


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