LEO's "Stay the Course" Findings

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Brittany Collins Kaufman | January 10, 2018

Community colleges provide a path out of poverty for many low-income students. However, far too many never graduate. Nationally, fewer than 40 percent of community college students obtain a degree within six years. New research from the University of Notre Dame shows that a comprehensive case management program that also addresses day-to-day obstacles can effectively tackle this completion crisis.

Researchers from Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) and the University of Maryland partnered with Catholic Charities Fort Worth to evaluate Stay the Course, a program that pairs undergraduates with trained social workers who can help them navigate important non-academic hurdles — including child care and transportation — that often lead students to drop out. Students in the program also have access to limited emergency financial assistance that can be used for unexpected expenses that might prevent them from persisting in school.

Between 2013 and 2016, the researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial evaluation of Stay the Course at Tarrant County College, which is a Fort Worth, Texas, community college with approximately 50,000 students. Eligible students were randomly assigned to three groups. The first had full access to comprehensive case management and emergency financial assistance, the second was offered only emergency financial assistance, and the third was a control group.

The researchers tracked the students’ academic records for three years after enrollment in the program. In a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, they show that the students who participated in the full Stay the Course program were significantly more likely to stay enrolled and to graduate within six semesters. The researchers noted no difference between the control group and the group receiving only emergency financial assistance. A simple cost-benefit analysis shows that the earnings boost that results from obtaining an associate’s degree is more than sufficient to cover the cost of the Stay the Course program.

Read more here.

 by Daily Domer Staff

Posted In: Features