The study took place at two New Orleans, Louisiana-based community colleges: Delgado Community College and Louisiana Technical College-West Jefferson.
The majority of the study participants were female (94.5% Delgado, 84.2% Louisiana Tech), unmarried and not living with a partner (77.0% Delgado, 65.5% Louisiana Tech), and Black (84.8% Delgado, 85.2% Louisiana Tech). The average age was 24.9 at Delgado and 27.0 at Louisiana Tech. Few participants were dependent on their parents (17.9% Delgado, 14.4% Louisiana Tech). Just over half were currently employed (51.4% Delgado, 52.5% Louisiana Tech).
These characteristics are based on the full 1,019 participants in the study (reported in 2009 study). For the 2006 report, program effects were only analyzed for the first two cohorts who entered the study in spring and summer 2004, which represents 53% of the full sample (537 students).
Students in the Opening Doors program received an initial payment of $250 after the program counselors confirmed with the registrar that they had enrolled at least half time. After midterms, those who were verified by counselors to be enrolled at least half time and were still earning a 2.0 GPA, received a second payment of $250. A final payment of $500 was made at the end of the semester, after verification that the students had passed their courses and earned a GPA of at least 2.0.
The Opening Doors counselors provided treatment participants with personalized attention and oversight by monitoring students’ compliance with program requirements. Counselors were also encouraged to help students resolve problems that interfered with their academic performance, either directly or by referring them to other campus or community resources. The incremental payment of the scholarship gave counselors at least two or three opportunities to talk with students each semester.
The control group was considered "business as usual." Participants in the control group received whatever regular financial aid, including Pell Grants, and counseling was available to all students. They did not receive an Opening Doors scholarship and did not have counselors who monitored their academic performance.
Support for implementation
This study was a collaboration between MDRC and its partners in the Network on Transitions to Adulthood, funded by the MacArthur Foundation (p. 1, 2009 report). "The Louisiana Department of Social Services and the Louisiana Workforce Commission agreed to fund and oversee the program, while MDRC assisted the colleges with program implementation and conducted all evaluation activities, including random assignment of students to program and control groups," (P. 11, 2009 report). Due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina during the study, outcomes are studied for both Pre-Katrina and Pre to Post Katrina (p. 11, 2009 report). Program funding came through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and limited the ages of students to 18-34 year olds, and participants had to provide documentation required by state agencies (p. 16). The program began as a small pilot program in spring semester-summer 2005 just before Hurricane Katrina struck, and each college appointed an administrator to oversee Opening Doors and hired counselors to work with students. Delgado's City Park campus had two counselors and the other two campuses had one counselor and one administrative assistant (p. 31, 2009 report). The MDRC 2009 reported that there was a lack of leadership support for the Opening Doors program (p. 34), hypothesized to be due to the short-lived nature of the program and the pilot nature of the program.