Learning Communities

December, 2016

This document compares two approaches to improving community college outcomes — CUNY ASAP, a specific program model, and guided pathways, a framework for institutional reform — and discusses how they might be integrated to improve structure, coherence, and support for students.

Early Findings from a Demonstration in Three Community Colleges

September, 2016

CUNY ASAP has proved exceptionally effective at increasing community college graduation rates. This demonstration tests the viability and effects of programs modeled on ASAP in different types of colleges, including those serving many nontraditional students. Early findings show increases in full-time enrollment, credits earned, and persistence into the second semester.

The Effect of Ninth Grade Academies on Students’ Academic and Behavioral Outcomes

June, 2016

A Ninth Grade Academy is a self-contained learning community within a high school that aims to create a more personalized environment for freshmen. The model has shown promise in the context of whole-school reform, but successful implementation is challenging. The academies studied did not improve students’ academic or behavioral outcomes.

A Look at MDRC’s Research

March, 2016

How can financial aid be used to improve academic success for low-income college students? Evidence suggests that providing additional financial support to increase students’ enrollment intensity — either increasing the number of credits they take each semester or enrolling in courses during the summer — can boost credit accumulation and may help them complete degrees faster.

A Look at MDRC’s Research

January, 2016

Forty percent of all entering college students and over half of entering community college students must take at least one remedial course. Fewer than half make it through developmental education. This two-page Issue Focus provides an overview of new research evidence in four areas of developmental education reform.

A Program That Almost Doubles Three-Year Graduation Rates

October, 2015

This infographic explains the City University of New York’s innovative ASAP program and the problems it addresses, summarizes MDRC’s study findings, and depicts the timeline for a replication effort at three Ohio community colleges.

Lessons from Implementing a Rigorous Academic Program for At-Risk Young People

September, 2015

In Gateway to College, students who have dropped out of high school and who are at risk of dropping out simultaneously earn credits toward a high school diploma and a postsecondary degree. This report describes the program model and shares lessons learned from its implementation at three program sites.

Submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

September, 2015

Following up on testimony delivered before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on August 5, 2015, Lashawn Richburg-Hayes submitted additional information on opportunities for innovation in financial aid and student support services in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Presented Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

August, 2015

On August 5, Lashawn Richburg-Hayes testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on what research evidence suggests about the best ways to improve the academic success of low-income college students.

Evidence from Three Studies

June, 2015

Results from three random assignment studies at New York City community colleges suggest that year-round financial aid can increase enrollment during the summer and winter sessions — and that summer and winter enrollment can help students earn more credits.

March, 2015

MDRC’s evaluation of CUNY’s ASAP, which showed that the program is doubling the graduation rate of students who start with developmental needs, has gained a lot of attention. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received about ASAP and the study — as well as their answers.

Three-Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students

February, 2015

The City University of New York’s comprehensive ASAP program nearly doubles the three-year graduation rate for developmental education students in community college – at a lower cost-per-degree than regular services. ASAP also increases rates of transfer to four-year colleges.

Lessons from the First Round of Achieving the Dream Community Colleges

April, 2014

Launched in 2004, Achieving the Dream is designed to help community colleges collect and analyze student performance data and apply the results to help students succeed. This report offers lessons from the first 26 colleges to join the national initiative, which now includes more than 200 institutions.

Seven Years Later

March, 2014

This paper presents the long-term effects of a learning communities program. The program’s positive effect on credit accumulation was maintained for seven years, and there is some evidence that graduation rates increased. Economic outcomes are examined, and sobering reflections on detecting effects on economic outcomes in higher education interventions are presented.

Two-Year Results from an Evaluation of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students

December, 2013

This policy brief presents results from an evaluation of a program designed to increase the graduation rates of low-income community college students. The initiative requires full-time attendance and offers comprehensive supports and financial incentives for three full years. The program boosted two-year graduation rates substantially — by 66 percent.

An Evaluation of Achieving the Dream in Washington State

December, 2012

In 2006, six community and technical colleges in Washington State joined the innovative Achieving the Dream (ATD) initiative. This report describes the progress they made in implementing ATD’s “culture of evidence” principles for institutional improvement, examines strategies they implemented to improve student success, and charts trends in student outcomes before and after they joined ATD.

Six-Year Effects of a Freshman Learning Community Program at Kingsborough Community College

July, 2012

Students who participated in a one-semester learning community, in which small groups of student took three linked classes together and received other extra services, were more likely to have graduated six years later. The program also proved to be cost-effective.

A Synthesis of Findings from Six Community Colleges

July, 2012

This report looks at the short-term impacts of 174 one-semester learning communities for developmental students at six community colleges. On average, the programs produced a modest impact on credits earned.

July, 2012

Two reports offer findings on the effectiveness of learning communities, a popular strategy that places small cohorts of students together in two or more thematically linked courses, usually for a single semester, with added support, such as extra advising or tutoring.

Early Results from an Evaluation of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students

June, 2012

The City University of New York’s ASAP program requires full-time attendance and offers comprehensive supports to community college students for three full years. Early results from a random assignment study show that ASAP increases credits earned, full-time enrollment, and completion of developmental (or remedial) coursework.

Impact Studies at Merced College and The Community College of Baltimore County

February, 2012

Two colleges implemented semester-long learning communities linking developmental English with a range of other courses. At Merced, learning communities students earned more developmental English credits and passed more English courses than a control group. At CCBC, there were no meaningful impacts on students’ credit attempts or progress. Neither college’s program had an impact on persistence or on cumulative credits earned.

An Impact Study of Career-Focused Learning Communities at Kingsborough Community College

July, 2011

Students took two courses in their major and one on careers associated with their major. Active, collaborative, and interdisciplinary learning was emphasized. No meaningful impacts on educational outcomes were found for the full sample, but recent transfer students saw a modest positive impact on credits earned during the program semester.

A Synthesis of Findings from an Evaluation at Six Community Colleges

March, 2011

MDRC’s Opening Doors Demonstration, launched in 2003 with six community colleges, provides some of the first rigorous evidence that a range of interventions can improve educational outcomes for community college students. This 12-page policy brief describes the strategies tested, discusses the results, and offers suggestions to policymakers and practitioners for moving forward.

Five Years of Achieving the Dream in Community Colleges

February, 2011

This interim report examines the experiences of the first 26 colleges to join the ambitious Achieving the Dream initiative. Launched by Lumina Foundation for Education in 2004, Achieving the Dream helps community colleges collect and analyze student performance data in order to build a “culture of evidence,” enabling the colleges to use that knowledge to develop programs to increase students’ academic success.

Impact Studies at Queensborough and Houston Community Colleges

February, 2011

Learning communities, which co-enroll small groups of students into linked courses, are a popular strategy for helping developmental students at community colleges succeed. This report examines the impacts of one-semester learning communities for developmental math students at Queensborough Community College and Houston Community College. At both colleges, students in learning communities attempted and passed their developmental math class at higher rates than students in a control group. However, this impact generally did not translate into increased cumulative progress in math by the end of two or three semesters.

How Do We Know What Works?

October, 2010

Prepared for the recent White House Summit on Community Colleges, this paper describes interventions with rigorous research evidence of effectiveness and offers thoughts on bringing such programs to scale. The good news is: many states and colleges are piloting reforms, and there is a growing body of evidence on strategies that work.

An Impact Study at Hillsborough Community College

June, 2010

A random assignment study of learning communities that linked a developmental reading course and a “college success” course finds that faculty collaboration and curricular integration increased over time. Overall, the program had no impact on students’ academic success, but evidence suggests that it had some positive effects for the last cohort of students in the study.

How Much Do Achieving the Dream Colleges Spend — and from What Resources — to Become Data-Driven Institutions?

June, 2010

This report analyzes the experiences of five community colleges that participate in Lumina Foundation’s Achieving the Dream initiative and the investments they made in implementing an institutional improvement process aimed at increasing students’ success. The report examines how, where, and with what resources these colleges supported their reforms, as well as the key activities driving their overall expenditures.

Men of Color Discuss Their Experiences in Community College

March, 2010

This report takes an in-depth look at the perceptions and experiences of 87 African-American, Hispanic, and Native American men who were enrolled in developmental math courses at four community colleges. The study explores how the students’ experiences in their high schools and communities, as well as their identities as men of color, influenced their decision to go to college and their engagement in school.

The Experience of Six Community Colleges

March, 2010

Learning communities, which enroll groups of students together in coordinated classes, are increasingly being used to help developmental-level students succeed. This report on the Learning Communities Demonstration, a large-scale, random assignment evaluation, describes the strategies that six community colleges used and the challenges they faced in scaling up their programs.

The Policy and Practice of Assessing and Placing Students in Developmental Education Courses

March, 2010

This paper reports on case studies conducted at three community colleges to learn about how the colleges assess students for placement in developmental education courses. The case studies identify several problems and challenges, including lack of consensus about the standard for college-level work, the high-stakes nature of the assessments, and the minimal relationship between assessment for placement and diagnosis for instruction.

Lessons from the SSPIRE Initiative

July, 2009

This report describes how community colleges in California that participated in the Student Support Partnership Integrating Resources and Education (SSPIRE) initiative took steps to better serve low-income and underprepared students by integrating student support services with academic instruction.

Rationale, Sites, and Research Design

May, 2008

Launched in 2007 by MDRC and the National Center for Postsecondary Research, the Learning Communities Demonstration is testing models of this promising approach in six community colleges in five states. This report describes the research design, including information about the colleges and their models, the random assignment process, data sources, analysis plans, and reporting schedule.

Two-Year Effects of a Freshmen Learning Community Program at Kingsborough Community College

March, 2008

Freshmen in a “learning community” at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY, moved more quickly through developmental English requirements, took and passed more courses, and earned more credits in their first semester than students in a control group. Two years later, they were also somewhat more likely to be enrolled in college.

Early Progress in the Achieving the Dream Initiative

May, 2007

Achieving the Dream is a multiyear, national initiative, launched by Lumina Foundation for Education, to help community college students stay in school and succeed. The 83 participating colleges commit to collecting and analyzing data to improve student outcomes, particularly for low-income students and students of color. This baseline report describes the early progress that the first 27 colleges have made after just one year of implementation.

Early Results from the Opening Doors Demonstration in Ohio

April, 2007

This report presents the early results from MDRC’s evaluation of the Opening Doors program at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio. The two-semester program offered intensive student advising services and a modest scholarship to low-income students to encourage them to stay in school and earn credentials.

Students Navigating Community College

July, 2006

For this study, MDRC interviewed students at two colleges that are part of the Opening Doors Demonstration, a program to help community college students remain in school and succeed. The students spoke about their experiences on and off campus and the factors that help or hinder their progress in school.

A Background Paper

December, 2005

Interest in learning communities at colleges and universities is growing, as is early evidence of their impact on student success. This paper reviews the history, theory, and research on learning communities, describes how they operate, and proposes a multicollege demonstration project to build more conclusive evidence of their effectiveness.

The Opening Doors Demonstration

June, 2005

The Opening Doors Demonstration is designed to show how community colleges can help more low-income students remain in school and improve other outcomes, including degree attainment, labor market success, and personal and social well-being.

Early Results from the Opening Doors Demonstration at Kingsborough Community College

June, 2005

Opening Doors Learning Communities, a program serving mostly low-income freshmen at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY, improved course and test pass rates, particularly in English.

Services That May Help Low-Income Students Succeed in Community College

November, 2004

Community colleges can pursue many strategies for enhancing student services, including offering “one-stop shopping,” which provides students with multiple services at the same time and place.

Instructional Innovations That Help Low-Income Students Succeed in Community College

July, 2003

This paper looks at curricular and program redesign strategies currently used by community colleges to speed nontraditional students’ advancement from lower levels of skill into credential programs and to shorten the time commitment required to earn a credential.

July, 2002

The latest report from the Opening Doors project explores how to help low-wage workers move toward career advancement and higher wages by enrolling in and completing community college programs.

Project Overview

While the U.S. has made strides in increasing college access among low-income students, college completion has remained low. Graduation rates are particularly stagnant among our nation’s community colleges, which enroll a large number of low-income and nontraditional college students.

Project Overview

National attention is focused on increasing graduation rates at community colleges. Graduation rates are particularly low for students who come to campus underprepared for college-level work.

Project Overview

Reflecting the growing importance of a postsecondary credential in the labor market, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers are increasingly concerned with improving poor rates of college completion, particularly among low-income and traditionally underserved students enrolled in community colleges.

Project Overview

Community colleges, which tend to be accessible and affordable, serve as a critical resource for low-income individuals striving to improve their prospects in the labor market and life.

Project Overview

Community colleges enroll almost half of all U.S. undergraduate students, yet the majority of these students leave without earning a degree or certificate or transferring to another institution to continue their studies. As a result, they risk losing the opportunity to learn and to earn a livable wage.

Project Overview

A postsecondary credential has become increasingly important in the labor market, and college attendance has grown. Unfortunately, college completion remains less common, particularly in community colleges, which serve many low-income and academically underprepared students who often need remedial (developmental) courses.