WWC review of this study

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement: Implementation and early impact report

Rolston, H., Copson, E., & Gardiner, K. (2017). Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    958
     Students
    , grade
    PS

Reviewed: April 2022

At least one finding shows strong evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Credit accumulation outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

College-level credits earned

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) vs. Business as usual

-6 Months

Full sample;
958 students

34.04

27.49

Yes

 
 
14
 
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Total college credits earned by end of successive periods after randomization by month 18

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) vs. Business as usual

-12 Months

Full sample;
958 students

29.11

23.42

Yes

 
 
14

Total college credits earned by end of successive periods after randomization by month 12

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) vs. Business as usual

-18 Months

Full sample;
958 students

22.18

18.02

Yes

 
 
13

Total college credits earned by end of successive periods after randomization by month 6

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) vs. Business as usual

-24 Months

Full sample;
958 students

11.53

9.62

Yes

 
 
10
Industry-recognized credential, certificate, or license completion outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Certificate Earned

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) vs. Business as usual

-6 Months

Full sample;
958 students

29.10

23.10

Yes

 
 
7
 
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Receipt of a college credential (%): Level 2 certificate

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) vs. Business as usual

-6 Months

Full sample;
958 students

16.30

12.70

No

--

Receipt of a college credential (%): Level 1 certificate

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) vs. Business as usual

-6 Months

Full sample;
958 students

12.80

10.60

No

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

Any Degree - Associates or Bachelors

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) vs. Business as usual

-6 Months

Full sample;
958 students

28.80

25.00

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Receipt of a college credential (%): Associate's degree

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) vs. Business as usual

-6 Months

Full sample;
958 students

27.40

22.90

No

--

Receipt of a college credential (%): Bachelor's degree

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) vs. Business as usual

-6 Months

Full sample;
958 students

2.30

2.10

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: 71%
    Male: 29%
    • B
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    • y

    Texas
  • Race
    Black
    1%
    Other or unknown
    96%
    White
    3%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    96%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    4%

Setting

Established in 1995, VIDA is a non-profit, community-based organization, created through a partnership of faith-based leaders and the business community of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas. VIDA has a mission "to formulate new institutional relationships in the Rio Grande Valley that simultaneously address employers’ needs for skilled workers and link the area’s unemployed and underemployed with high skilled, high wage jobs identified in the region." VIDA’s developers adapted a model originating with the Project QUEST program, initiated in San Antonio in the early 1990s. The program targets low-income workers (eligible to work in the United States) who are 18 years or older, have only a high school education, are unemployed or underemployed, and meet federal poverty income levels or are on public assistance. Participants must be residents of the Rio Grande Valley. VIDA provides participants with comprehensive and intensive counseling services and substantial financial assistance (approximately $13,750 per participant) over an average of two and a half years to support the successful completion of training. VIDA’s primary program features are: •Required full-time enrollment in certificate programs, associate’s degree programs, or the final two years of bachelor’s degree programs. VIDA staff conduct an initial assessment of each applicant to determine his or her ability to commit to the program. The assessment accounts for finances, personal circumstances, and the need for VIDA services. •Weekly mandatory group or individual case management and counseling sessions conducted at students’ colleges by experienced VIDA Counselors with degrees in education, social services, psychology or a related field provide information on how to succeed in college and employment, identify problems early, and provide social support. •Wrap around support services for tuition, books, and other needs, such as transportation assistance calculated on school attendance to reduce the cost of obtaining a certificate or degree. •The “College Prep Academy,” a 16-week, accelerated, full-time basic skills (“bridge”) program for those who are not college ready but who have tenth grade skill levels or better. The course meets daily to prepare individuals to pass college entrance exams. •Regular assessment of local labor markets to identify occupations where support for training from VIDA is most likely to promote employment. Together these features and other less central program components provide a substantial set of services for which a participant must meet a demanding set of requirements. Their aim is to move students quickly through standard college coursework in order to obtain a certificate or a degree and secure employment. [adapted from Introduction, p. 1-2]

Study sample

The study sample’s characteristics are consistent with the nontraditional student population VIDA seeks to serve. The majority of the 958 randomized study participants were female (70 percent). Indicative of the majority Hispanic population in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, 96 percent of study participants were Hispanic. Study participants are also older than traditional college students. More than 60 percent were age 25 and older, and more than one-fifth were age 35 or older. However, because VIDA required at least a high school diploma or GED and enrolled participants with prior college experience, their levels of education were relatively high; virtually all had at least a high school degree or equivalent, and more than half had a year or more of college. Approximately half had annual household incomes of less than $15,000, and more than 85 percent had incomes less than $30,000. Consistent with these low levels of income, about two-thirds received benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). About two-thirds also reported experiencing financial hardship in the past year. Most were not working at the time of random assignment, reflecting their interest in and ability to attend school full time. [Section 2.3.2: Characteristics of the Study Sample, p. 15-16]

Intervention Group

VIDA’s primary goal is for participants to graduate with an associate’s degree or industry-recognized certificate in a high-demand occupation and find employment that pays a living wage in their area of study. VIDA supports full-time enrollment at local colleges through required attendance at weekly intensive counseling sessions along with direct assistance with tuition and related training expenses of $13,750 for two and a half years on average. VIDA offers participants who are not college-ready an accelerated basic skills academy. To start, program participants complete an initial assessment to determine their ability to commit to the program. For college-ready participants, experienced VIDA Counselors with degrees in education, social services, psychology or a related field conduct weekly mandatory group or individual case management and counseling sessions at students’ colleges to provide information on how to succeed in college and employment, identify problems early, and provide social support. Program participants can receive wrap-around support services for tuition, books, and other needs (e.g., transportation) to reduce the cost of obtaining a certificate or degree. For program participants who are not college-ready but have tenth-grade skill levels or better, VIDA offered the “College Prep Academy,” a 16-week, accelerated, full-time basic skills (“bridge”) program. During the 16 weeks, participants attend a daily course to prepare to pass college entrance exams. Services available to VIDA participants (and not the comparison group) include: Assessment •Individual assessment appointment completed with a VIDA Counselor after enrollment to review education and employment goals, barriers, and financial need •Routine assessment of financial need throughout program Instruction •College Prep Academy for instruction in math, reading, and writing provided in condensed 16-week full-time format at no cost •Targeting of education and occupational training programs at area community colleges and universities or other training providers by VIDA to in-demand occupations in the region Supports •Dedicated VIDA Counselors •Mandatory weekly group or individual counseling sessions •Substantial tuition assistance aligned with each participant’s financial need •Financial assistance to pay for course-related books, tools, uniforms •For College Prep Academy participants, VIDA pays for two rounds of college entrance exam testing •Financial assistance to pay for transportation and childcare related to attending school Employment Services • Identification of in-demand occupations in region designed to facilitate employment upon training completion • Job search-related topics covered in group counseling sessions • Phone call follow-up to graduates by program staff to determine employment status; offer of resume review if graduate is unemployed [Exhibit 3-2. Comparison of Career Pathways Program Components Available to PACE Control Group versus Treatment Group Members in VIDA, p. 26]

Comparison Group

Study participants randomized to the control group could not access the VIDA services but could access other services available in the community, such as VIDA’s college partners. In other words, the control group could access services available in the community, including those similar to what the treatment group could access through the program. Community resources available to both the intervention and comparison group include: Assessment •College entrance exams Instruction •Developmental education in math, reading, and writing at area community colleges •Education and occupational training programs at area community colleges and universities or other training providers Supports •Tutoring and academic advising through area community colleges •Career and personal counseling through local social service providers, including American Job Centers (AJCs) and Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) •Federal financial aid to attend school •Limited grants and scholarships to attend school Employment Services • Services available from local social service providers, including AJCs and DARS • Career centers and employment services available from the colleges and universities [Exhibit 3-2. Comparison of Career Pathways Program Components Available to PACE Control Group versus Treatment Group Members in VIDA, p. 26]

Support for implementation

None described.

Reviewed: July 2021

At least one finding shows strong evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Credit accumulation outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Total college credits earned within 24 months of randomization

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

24 Months

Full sample;
958 students

34.04

27.49

Yes

 
 
14
 
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Total college credits earned by end of successive periods after randomization by month 18

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

18 Months

Full sample;
958 students

29.11

23.42

Yes

 
 
14

Total college credits earned by end of successive periods after randomization by month 12

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

12 Months

Full sample;
958 students

22.18

18.02

Yes

 
 
13

Total college credits earned by end of successive periods after randomization by month 6

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

6 Months

Full sample;
958 students

11.53

9.62

Yes

 
 
10
Industry-recognized credential, certificate, or license completion outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Receipt of a college credential (%): Any credential

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

24 Months

Full sample;
958 students

55.44

45.00

Yes

 
 
10
 
More Outcomes

Receipt of a college credential (%): Any certificate

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

24 Months

Full sample;
958 students

29.10

23.13

No

--

Receipt of a credential from (%): A college within 24 months, another education or training institution by time of survey, or a licensing/ certification body by time of survey

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

24 Months

Full sample;
958 students

64.54

60.72

No

--
Show Supplemental Findings

Receipt of a college credential (%): Level 2 certificate

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

24 Months

Full sample;
958 students

16.32

12.71

No

--

Receipt of a college credential (%): Level 1 certificate

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

24 Months

Full sample;
958 students

12.76

10.63

No

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

Receipt of a college credential (%): Any degree

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

24 Months

Full sample;
958 students

29.71

25.00

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Receipt of a college credential (%): Associate's degree

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

24 Months

Full sample;
958 students

27.41

22.92

No

--

Receipt of a college credential (%): Bachelor's degree

Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

24 Months

Full sample;
958 students

2.30

2.08

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: 71%
    Male: 29%
    • 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
    Black
    1%
    Other or unknown
    96%
    White
    3%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    96%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    4%

Setting

The Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) is an adaptation of the Project QUEST model. The study was conducted with residents of San Antonio and four counties (Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy) in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

Study sample

Of the 958 participants who were eligible to participate in the study and were randomly assigned to either the intervention group or comparison group, 1% were Black, 3% were White, and race was not specified for 96% of participants. The majority of participants were Hispanic (96%) and female (71%). Study participants were also older than traditional college students. More than 60 percent were age 25 or older, and more than one-fifth were age 35 or older. Virtually all participants (99%) had at least a high school diploma or equivalent and more than half (57%) had completed a year or more of college. Approximately half (51%) had annual household incomes of less than $15,000, and more than 85% had incomes less than $30,000. Most (65%) were not working at the time of random assignment, reflecting their interest in and ability to attend school full-time.

Intervention Group

Established in 1995, VIDA is a non-profit, community-based organization, created through a partnership of faith-based leaders and the business community of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas to address employers’ needs for skilled workers and link the area’s un- and underemployed with high skilled, high wage jobs in the region. VIDA’s primary goal is for participants to graduate with an associate’s degree or industry-recognized certificate in a high-demand occupation and find employment that pays a living wage in their area of study. VIDA supports full-time enrollment at local colleges through required attendance at weekly intensive counseling sessions along with direct assistance with tuition and related training expenses of $13,750 for two and a half years on average. To start, program participants complete an initial assessment to determine their ability to commit to the program. For college-ready participants, experienced VIDA counselors conduct weekly mandatory group or individual case management and counseling sessions at students’ colleges to provide information on how to succeed in college and employment, identify problems early, and provide social support. Program participants can receive wraparound support services for tuition, books, and other needs such as transportation to reduce the cost of obtaining a certificate or degree. For program participants who are not college-ready, VIDA offers a College Prep Academy, which is a 16-week, accelerated, full-time basic skills bridge program. During the 16 weeks, participants attend a daily course to prepare to pass college entrance exams. For College Prep Academy participants, VIDA pays for two rounds of college entrance exam testing.

Comparison Group

Participants in the comparison group could not access the VIDA services but could access other services available in the community, such as those provided by VIDA’s college partners and other community resources such as occupational training programs, developmental education, and academic advising through area community colleges; career and personal counseling through area community colleges and local social service providers including American Job Centers and Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services; and financial aid to attend school through federal and local loans, grants, and scholarships.

Support for implementation

VIDA received funding from the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) evaluation for enhanced recruitment in order to double program enrollment and establish a comparison group to conduct an evaluation of the intervention.

 

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