Mapping Success

Performance-Based Scholarships, Student Services, and Developmental Math at Hillsborough Community College

By Colleen Sommo, Melissa Boynton, Herbert Collado, John Diamond, Alissa Gardenhire, Alyssa Ratledge, Timothy Rudd, Michael J. Weiss

In 2010, Hillsborough Community College (HCC), a large multicampus institution in Tampa, Florida, worked with MDRC to create the Mathematics Access Performance Scholarship (MAPS) program to help academically underprepared community college students succeed in developmental math. MAPS provides an incentive for low-income students referred to developmental math to take their math courses early and consecutively, get help with math in an on-campus Math Lab, and strive for passing grades or better, in exchange for a modest scholarship contingent on performance. MAPS is part of the national Performance-Based Scholarship (PBS) Demonstration, which is testing performance-based scholarships with varying student populations and program requirements.

MAPS offered eligible students the opportunity to earn a performance-based scholarship of up to $1,800 ($600 per semester for three semesters) for successfully completing a three-course sequence ― comprising Beginning Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, and a first-level college math course ― within a period of three consecutive semesters plus a summer term. MAPS is the only program in the PBS Demonstration that provides an incentive for a specified course sequence. MDRC used a random assignment design to study the effects of MAPS compared with HCC’s standard services. Academic outcomes were tracked for all sample members for two years.

Key Findings

The findings at HCC, like those across the PBS Demonstration, are modest but positive.

  • More than 90 percent of program group students earned a MAPS award in the first semester, but scholarship receipt rates declined in the second and third semesters. Scholarship receipt rates decreased partly because fewer students reenrolled each semester, although rates declined even after accounting for decreased enrollment.
  • MAPS students were much more likely to visit a Math Lab than control group students. MAPS students were 38 percentage points more likely than control group students to visit a Math Lab in the first semester; a similar difference occurred in the second semester. MAPS students also spent more time in the Math Labs on average than did control group students.
  • MAPS helped move students further along in the math course sequence, and MAPS students also accumulated more credits overall ― in part because of their greater progress in math. By the end of two years, MAPS students were 11 percentage points more likely than control group students to complete a college-level math course or Intermediate Algebra as their highest-level math course (48.7 percent versus 37.8 percent). The program’s estimated effect on total credit accumulation is statistically significant after one semester, after one year, and after one year and one semester. After two years, MAPS students had earned 1.6 more total credits than their control group counterparts, although the increase of 7 percent is no longer statistically significant.
  • The program had no discernible impact on students’ retention. Program group students were no more likely to reenroll in subsequent semesters than were control group students.

A future report will present a synthesis of the final results from sites across the PBS Demonstration.


Sommo, Colleen, Melissa Boynton, Herbert Collado, John Diamond, Alissa Gardenhire, Alyssa Ratledge, Timothy Rudd, and Michael J. Weiss. 2014. Mapping Success. New York: MDRC.