Promise programs are more effective when community college students are given targeted support services, according to two new studies by MDRC.
One study evaluated the Detroit Promise Path program, which provides extra support to students participating in the Detroit Promise, and the other one reviewed results from the MDRC’s College Promise Success Initiative.
The Detroit Promise, one of more than 300 promise programs nationwide, was launched by the Detroit Regional Chamber in 2013 to provide college scholarships to high school graduates for up to three years. It’s a last-dollar scholarship, meaning it covers the difference between a student’s financial aid award and the cost of tuition.
While the program resulted in an increase in students who enrolled in college, there was a concern that large numbers of Detroit Promise recipients were dropping out before their second year. To improve college retention, the chamber partnered with MDRC to create the Detroit Promise Path, which adds student services and benefits to the program, including:
- campus coaching and a requirement that students meet with a coach twice a month
- $50 a month to cover extra expenses, such as bus passes or books, for students who meet with coaches
- encouragement for students to enroll in summer courses
- a management information system to track student participation
The MDRC study compared two randomly selected groups: students who participated in the Detroit Promise Path and students who received Detroit Promise scholarships but didn’t receive the extra supports in the Path program.
Early results from that study suggest that “well-designed, well-implemented student support services in College Promise programs can enhance students’ experience, improve their semester-to-semester persistence in college and potentially increase the percentage of them who graduate,” MDRC found. For example, the program’s estimated impact on full-time enrollment for the full study sample increases from about 6 percentage points in the first semester to about 10 percentage points in the second semester.
This shows “there is a sizable group of students who currently enroll part-time but would enroll full-time with direction and support,” the report states.
In another example, students in the Detroit Promise Path earned an average 1.7 more credits than students in the control group, a 25 percent increase that is statistically significant.