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Findings from RCT Grants

A Randomized Controlled Trial of Monitoring Advising Analytics to Promote Success (MAAPS), Measuring College Persistence and Degree Completion across 11 Universities

Four-year findings on college persistence and degree completion by first generation or low-income college students in a large randomized controlled trial

Grantee: Ithaka Harbors Inc. The interim study report is linked here.

Description of the Intervention: This ongoing randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluated MAAPS as implemented by 11 universities across the United States. Originally developed by Georgia State University, the three-year program pairs students with dedicated college advisors who (i) help navigate key academic choices; (ii) put together degree plans to ensure timely graduation; and (iii) receive real-time alerts when students veer off-track or are at-risk of not graduating on time. Earlier interim RCT results show that MAAPS had no effect on either persistence or degree completion at two-year follow-up (i.e., when continuously enrolled students are in their junior year of college); this interim report covers four-year follow-up1.

Study Design: The researchers randomly assigned a sample of 10,946 low-income or first generation students across 11 universities to either a treatment group that was offered access to MAAPS, or a control group that was not offered the program but had access to the usual services offered by their college. Sample members averaged 18 years old, and were 45% White/​24% Hispanic/​11% Asian/​13% Black, 57% female, 80% Pell-eligible, and 53% first generation college students. The study measured primary outcomes using administrative data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC).

Impact on the Primary Outcomes: Four years after random assignment the study found the following impacts on the study’s two primary pre-registered outcomes2: (i) no statistically significant effect on college persistence (79% of the treatment group was still enrolled vs. 80% of the control group); and (ii) no statistically significant effect on degree completion (43% of the treatment group had earned a degree vs. 42% of the control group.) There were also no statistically significant effects on persistence or degree completion at any of the 11 participating universities.

Study Quality: Based on a careful review, we believe this study was well-conducted and produced valid findings3.

  1. 1

    The final report will cover impacts through six-year follow-up.

  2. 2

    The study’s pre-analysis plan was created and registered after interim two-year results were posted, as a condition of Arnold Ventures supporting the RCT through six-year follow-up.

  3. 3

    For example, the study had successful random assignment (as evidenced by highly similar treatment and control groups), low (4%) non-differential sample attrition, and valid analyses that were publicly pre-registered.