Stay the Course: An Innovative Approach to Increasing Community College Persistence and Graduation Rates
This study will evaluate a community college intervention program that is currently being implemented with a randomized controlled trial (RCT) design on a campus in Fort Worth, Texas. The program is designed to address the “life barriers” – as distinct from specific academic barriers – that challenge many economically-disadvantaged students. The goal of the study is to determine whether an intervention of this type is effective at increasing community college persistence and graduation rates. The main elements of the program, called Stay the Course, are coaching/ mentoring services and emergency financial assistance (EFA). The program is being run by a community service provider in agreement with the college. Eligible students are assigned to one of two treatment arms or a comparison sample. In Treatment Arm 1, students receive coaching, mentoring, and EFA. In Treatment Arm 2, students receive EFA only. Enrolling two treatment arms enables a comparison of the effectiveness of emergency financial assistance to the bundle of services. Administrative records will be used to track student academic outcomes for two years post random assignment. The main outcomes of interest are total credit hours completed, re-enrollment rates, and degrees or certificates obtained. Demographic data obtained from student records will be used to investigate how treatment effects vary across student subgroups.