An Introduction to SUCCESS: The Scaling Up Community College Efforts for Student Success Project

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What is SUCCESS?

Graduation rates among community college students are low. MDRC’s Scaling Up College Completion Efforts for Student Success (SUCCESS) is working with colleges and states to raise those rates through large-scale, financially sustainable support programs based on strong evidence.

Program Components

SUCCESS combines five components that have been proven to help students succeed in college:

  1. Coaches, supervised by dedicated SUCCESS program director/managers, who actively reach out to at-risk students and meet frequently with them.

  2. Financial incentives for students to meet with coaches and satisfy other program requirements.

  3. Strategies to help students earn at least 24 credits per year (a full-time load) and meet other credit benchmarks over two to three years.

  4. A robust management information system that provides real-time data for efficient program management and continuous improvement.

  5. A commitment to affordability and sustainability realized in part by using and consolidating existing resources.

Why This Approach?

A growing body of research shows that combining multiple interventions into a single long-lasting program can help students succeed.[1] However, resource constraints have often made it hard for colleges and states to implement comprehensive programs on a large scale. SUCCESS aims to make programs financially sustainable by aligning them with state initiatives and using existing resources.

First Steps

MDRC will provide in-depth technical assistance to nine colleges in four states. SUCCESS programs at those colleges will launch in the 2019-2020 academic year. The participating states and colleges are:

California: Bakersfield College and Chaffey College

Indiana: Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington, Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, and Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Service Areas

New Jersey: Essex County College and Passaic County Community College

Ohio: Owens Community College and Stark State College

At a subset of colleges, MDRC will conduct cost-effectiveness studies and random assignment evaluations to determine how the programs affect student outcomes. Lessons drawn from the project will be shared broadly with colleges and state policy leaders across the country.

SUCCESS is supported by Arnold Ventures and Lumina Foundation. To learn more about the project, email Colleen Sommo at



[1] Examples of such programs include Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) and the Detroit Promise Path. Most notably, the City University of New York (CUNY) designed, developed, and implemented its Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which was the first to show through a random assignment evaluation that comprehensive student support programs could dramatically increase graduation rates. Institutions interested in replicating CUNY ASAP should reach out to CUNY at

2019. “An Introduction to SUCCESS: The Scaling Up Community College Efforts for Student Success Project.” New York: MDRC.