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Summaries of RCT Grants

Replication RCT of Stay the Course, an intervention designed to increase college persistence and completion by low-income community college students

This grant will support the continuation of an ongoing randomized controlled trial (RCT) of Stay the Course, an intervention designed to improve postsecondary persistence and graduation outcomes for low-income community college students through case management and access to emergency cash assistance.

Grant Recipient: University of Notre Dame

Term: 2017 –2019

Principal Investigators: Melissa S. Kearney, Ph.D., University of Maryland
James X. Sullivan, Ph.D., University of Notre Dame
William Evans, Ph.D., University of Notre Dame

Funding: $129,529

Summary: This grant will support the continuation of an ongoing randomized controlled trial (RCT) of Stay the Course, an intervention designed to improve postsecondary persistence and graduation outcomes for low-income community college students through case management and access to emergency cash assistance. Stay the Course shares some similarities with the evidence-based City University of New York Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) in that it seeks to reduce financial, academic, and other barriers to community college students remaining in school. While Stay the Course’s services are less comprehensive than ASAP’s, it is also less costly to implement – about $5,600 per student total for three years of enrollment for Stay the Course versus about $14,000 per student for ASAP.

Stay the Course was previously evaluated in a well-conducted pilot RCT at one campus of Tarrant County College, a large community college system in Fort Worth, Texas. That study found that the program produced a promising increase in the likelihood that students remained enrolled in postsecondary education six semesters after random assignment (50% of the Stay the Course group was still enrolled vs. 44% of the control group, an impact that was close to statistical significance). A possible reason the program did not produce impacts that were large enough to reach full statistical significance (at the 0.05 level) is that only 22% of students in the Stay the Course group ever participated in the program.

The LJAF grant will support longer-term follow-up of a replication RCT of the program that is currently underway with a sample of 261 students at a different Tarrant County College campus. Compared to the pilot study, this study has achieved a much higher program participation rate among treatment group members (87%), and so is better powered to detect program impacts. After one year of follow-up, the new study’s initial findings on postsecondary enrollment are consistent with the promising findings from the pilot trial.

This grant will support continued data collection, analysis, and reporting on the impacts of Stay the Course for two additional years, providing outcome data three years after random assignment. Data collection will include school records and program participation data from Tarrant County College, as well as enrollment and degree data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

This study’s pre-specified analysis plan is linked here.

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