WWC review of this study

Increasing community college completion rates among low-income students: Evidence from a randomized controlled trial evaluation of a case management intervention.

Evans, W.M., Kearney, M.S., Perry, B.C., & Sullivan, J.X. (2017). NBER Working Paper 24150. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    1,168
     Students
    , grade
    PS

Reviewed: October 2019

At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Academic achievement outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

College GPA

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
849 students

2.52

2.50

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

College GPA

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

2 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

2.52

2.47

No

--

College GPA

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Female; Stay the Course versus Control;
569 students

2.54

2.49

No

--

College GPA

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control; "Non-White";
516 students

2.44

2.39

No

--

College GPA

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

4 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

2.50

2.48

No

--

College GPA

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Male; Stay the Course versus Control;
300 students

2.50

2.50

No

--

College GPA

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

White; Stay the Course versus Control;
353 students

2.76

2.80

No

--

College GPA

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Emergency Financial Assistance-Only versus Control;
738 students

2.39

2.50

No

--
Access and enrollment outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

% Enrolled at any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

49.60

44.00

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

% Enrolled at any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Female; Stay the Course versus Control;
569 students

50.90

42.50

Yes

 
 
8

% Enrolled at any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control; "Non-White";
516 students

52.40

45.50

No

--

% Enrolled at any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

2 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

81.30

79.70

No

--

% Enrolled at any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Emergency Financial Assistance-Only versus Control;
738 students

45.50

44.00

No

--

% Enrolled at any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Female; Stay the Course versus Control;
300 students

46.80

47.10

No

--

% Enrolled at any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

White; Stay the Course versus Control;
353 students

42.90

42.40

No

--

% Enrolled at any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

4 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

58.70

60.40

No

--
Attainment outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

% Earned a degree from any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

21.90

18.20

No

--
More Outcomes

Associates degree attainment

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

19.50

15.90

No

--
Show Supplemental Findings

Associates degree attainment

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Female; Stay the Course versus Control;
569 students

23.10

15.70

Yes

 
 
11

Associates degree attainment

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

White; Stay the Course versus Control;
353 students

21.80

15.30

No

--

% Earned a degree from any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Female; Stay the Course versus Control;
569 students

25.20

18.70

No

--

% Earned a degree from any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control; "Non-White";
516 students

21.70

17.60

No

--

% Earned a degree from any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

White; Stay the Course versus Control;
353 students

23.80

20.30

No

--

Associates degree attainment

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control; "Non-White";
516 students

18.50

15.70

No

--

Associates degree attainment

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

4 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

8.30

8.70

No

--

% Earned a degree from any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Male; Stay the Course versus Control;
300 students

16.20

17.10

No

--

% Earned a degree from any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Emergency Financial Assistance-Only versus Control;
738 students

16.80

18.20

No

--

Associates degree attainment

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Emergency Financial Assistance-Only versus Control;
738 students

14.70

15.90

No

--

% Earned a degree from any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

4 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

8.70

10.00

No

--

Associates degree attainment

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Male; Stay the Course versus Control;
300 students

13.90

16.40

No

--

% Earned a degree from any college

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

2 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

1.90

0.70

No

--

Associates degree attainment

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

2 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

1.30

0.50

No

--
Credit accumulation and persistence outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

College-level credits earned

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

28.59

26.83

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

College-level credits earned

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Female; Stay the Course versus Control;
569 students

29.26

26.41

No

--

College-level credits earned

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

2 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

14.96

13.90

No

--

College-level credits earned

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

White; Stay the Course versus Control;
353 students

30.74

28.34

No

--

College-level credits earned

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

4 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control;
869 students

24.24

23.14

No

--

College-level credits earned

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Stay the Course versus Control; "Non-White";
516 students

27.89

26.27

No

--

College-level credits earned

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Male; Stay the Course versus Control;
300 students

27.42

27.73

No

--

College-level credits earned

Stay the Course vs. Business as usual

6 Semesters

Emergency Financial Assistance-Only versus Control;
738 students

26.39

26.83

No

--


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: 65%
    Male: 35%

  • Urban
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
    • g
    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    Texas
  • Race
    Asian
    3%
    Black
    20%
    Other or unknown
    35%
    White
    41%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    46%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    54%

Setting

This randomized controlled trial was conducted within the Trinity River Campus of Tarrant County College (TCC), which is a large community college in Fort Worth, TX. The study was conducted between 2013 and 2016.

Study sample

To be considered eligible to be in the study, students needed to be: "(1) enrolled in at least 9 credit hours at TCC; (2) degree seeking; (3) age 18 years or older; (4) satisfied at least one Texas Success Initiative (TSI) standard; (5) newly enrolled or have earned a Cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 at TCC to date; (6) accumulated less than 30 credit hours at TCC to date; and (7) Pell eligible or fall below 200% of the poverty line (based on reported income on the FASFA)" (p.13). Among the students randomly assigned to the Stay the Course condition, 62.8% were female, 18.4% were Black, 40.5% were White, 2.7% were Asian, 37.7% were another race, and 47.7% were Hispanic. These students had an average family income of $22,576 and an expected family contribution of $768. Among the students randomly assigned to the Emergency Financial Aid (EFA-only) group, 64.2% were female, 24.1% were Black, 41.8% were White, 3.7% were Asian, 30.4% were another race, and 43.8% were Hispanic. These students had an average family income of $22,906 and an expected family contribution of $761. Among the students randomly assigned to Comparison group, 68.1% were female, 21.6% were Black, 40.8% were White, 3.5% were Asian, 34.9% were another race, and 46.0% were Hispanic. These students had an average family income of $20,756 and an expected family contribution of $650.

Intervention Group

The primary intervention of interest, Stay the Course, entails comprehensive case management meant to help low-income community college students persist in school and complete an Associate's Degree. Stay the Course was designed by Catholic Charities Fort Worth and is meant to help students address personal obstacles that undermine degree attainment. Stay the Course requires that each student be paired with a trained social worker, called a navigator. Navigators help students via coaching, mentoring, and referral services. It is recommended that students and navigators meet in person once a month. Students who receive Stay the Course also have access to limited EFA that can be used for non-academic expenses to improve their persistence in college. The second intervention that was studied was provision of EFA access only. EFA receipt required that students demonstrate an immediate financial need, and that an unmet need would undermine their academic progress. Needs that generally qualified for assistance were ones that were "foreseeable, controllable, and temporary" (e.g., car repair, rent, utilities). EFA eligibility was restricted to students with a cumulative GPA of a 2.0 (this was waived for first semester students) and being enrolled in at least 9 credits at the time of EFA application. EFA could reach up to $500 per semester and was capped at $1,500 total over a three-year period.

Comparison Group

The control group received standard community college services.

Support for implementation

At the start of the study in 2013, program guidelines indicated that student-navigator meetings should occur at least once per month, but the actual frequency of meetings occurred at navigator discretion. This changed in 2015; the program supervisor set specific benchmarks for navigator-student interactions so as to promote fidelity of program implementation. These benchmarks required reciprocal contact (email, text, phone) to occur at least once per week, in-person meetings every two weeks, and completion of a service planning goal once every three weeks.

 

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