Supporting College Students During the Pandemic

Early Lessons from SUCCESS

Open-access colleges are an important pathway to economic mobility for millions of Americans. But graduation rates at these colleges are low—for example, only 36 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen at community colleges graduate within three years. Over the last two decades, MDRC and others have conducted research to build the evidence base about what works to help students stay in college and earn credentials. Using lessons from the existing body of research, MDRC designed and is evaluating the Scaling Up College Completion Efforts for Student Success (SUCCESS) program, a multifaceted student support program designed for financial sustainability. This brief highlights the components of the original SUCCESS program model and how colleges adapted them in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and describes the study design and how the pandemic has affected it too. It also presents some early implementation findings and preliminary impact findings for the first study cohort’s first semester, which occurred during the peak of the pandemic.

Contributors: Erick Alonzo, Osvaldo Avila, Katie Beal, Parker Cellura, Ben Cohen, Stanley Dai, Hannah Dalporto, Colin Hill, Vivianna Plancarte, Austin Slaughter, Andrea Vasquez, Sienna Walker, Michelle Ware, Melissa Wavelet, and Michael Weiss