Incentivizing Continual Enrollment (ICE) in Ohio is a new initiative to improve community college persistence and completion. The project will apply insights from behavioral science to design targeted messaging and financial incentives that encourage students to enroll in courses during the summer term.
In the U.S., higher education institutions are largely designed around a schedule that promotes fall and spring enrollment but presents summer as an optional period for students. Yet, only 20 percent of students at public two-year colleges graduate within three years. Many students enroll part-time or inconsistently — frequently taking semesters off — which can increase the time it takes them to graduate.
One promising strategy to reduce students’ time to degree may be to encourage them to enroll continually, including during the summer semesters, which can benefit students in multiple ways. First, it allows students to accumulate credits during a time when most students opt out of taking coursework, helping to build momentum and meet their goal of completing college. Second, enrolling in summer may reduce the dropout rate by bridging the gap between the spring and fall semesters, a transition point when many students leave college. Third, summer enrollment could mitigate the loss of learning that occurs during the summer, improving performance. Ultimately, earning credits in summer may make it more likely that students complete their degrees.
MDRC is launching the Incentivizing Continual Enrollment (ICE) project in Ohio with support from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation and in partnership with The Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC). The initiative will include up to 10 community colleges across Ohio by the spring of 2017.