The Importance of Evidence

July, 2014

In this essay, adapted from remarks made to the Growth Philanthropy Network/Social Impact Exchange 2014 Conference on Scaling Impact, MDRC President Gordon Berlin explains why developing reliable evidence of effectiveness is critical when expanding programs to a large scale.

Evidence from Promising Programs

June, 2014

A review of high-quality studies, this paper highlights interventions — in education, employment and training, and second-chance programs — that have demonstrated positive results for young men of color. It comes as policymakers and philanthropies focus new attention on investing more to build opportunities for these young men. 

Educational Challenges and MDRC’s Research

May, 2014

MDRC hosted a recent colloquium to celebrate our 40th anniversary and the contributions of former Board Chair Robert Solow. This issue focus summarizes a panel presentation, featuring Frank Levy, Richard J. Murnane, Cecilia E. Rouse, and Ronald F. Ferguson, about current challenges in education and how MDRC’s research can help address them.

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.

Student Characteristics and Patterns of (Un)Affordability

February, 2014

This paper reviews the literature on financial aid and college achievement, examines data from MDRC’s Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration to identify relationships between students’ financial aid and their persistence and academic achievement, and concludes with recommendations for how these collective findings should affect financial aid policy.

A Technical Assistance Guide for Developing and Implementing Performance-Based Scholarships

February, 2014

Drawing on the findings and experiences of two research demonstrations that tested the effectiveness of performance-based scholarships, this guide provides helpful information for colleges and scholarship-granting organizations on this type of aid, which can reduce the financial burden on low-income students while offering incentives for good academic progress.

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.

Early Findings from the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration in Arizona

October, 2013

College graduation rates for Latino students, especially Latino male students, are lower than the national average. This report presents findings from a study of performance-based scholarships paired with a robust set of student services designed to help low-income Latino men succeed.

Incremental Aid to Promote Student Success

September, 2013

Aid Like A Paycheck is based on a simple idea that is gaining national attention: after tuition and fees have been paid to a college, disburse the remaining financial aid to students evenly throughout the term — like a paycheck. This brief describes successful pilot tests at two colleges and discusses policy implications.

Interim Findings from the PBS Demonstration

August, 2013

Interim results suggest that performance-based scholarships improve students’ academic performance and increase the number of credits they earn. In some sites, the scholarships also appear to reduce student debt. In the one location for which data are available so far, the program increased the proportion of students earning a degree.

March, 2013

Too many students enter college underprepared, drop out, and never earn a credential that would give them access to stable, well-paid jobs. Part of our “Looking Forward” series, this policy memo describes some promising college readiness programs that can provide students with the skills they need to successfully complete college, but cautions that more evidence is needed.

February, 2013

America faces a two-pronged problem in higher education: increasing costs and low completion rates. Part of our “Looking Forward” series, this policy memo describes how offering financial aid that rewards academic progress may help students pay for college and complete their degrees more quickly.

Lessons from Two New York City Community Colleges

November, 2012

Can a scholarship without services improve academic progress? For adult developmental education students, this program encouraged more full-time enrollment during the semesters in which it operated and increased registration and credit accumulation in the summer semester, but it did not increase the average number of semesters registered or credits earned over two years.

Bridging the Gap between High School and College in Tacoma, Washington

June, 2012

Getting Ready for Success provides low-income students in Tacoma with academic and social supports and monetary incentives during the late high school and early college years to increase their motivation and ability to succeed in college.

An Impact Study of Eight Developmental Summer Bridge Programs in Texas

June, 2012

Eight developmental summer bridge programs offered accelerated and focused learning opportunities for entering college students with low skills in Texas. An evaluation shows positive impacts on introductory college-level course completion in math and writing, which faded by the end of two years. The programs had no impact on persistence or the average number of credits students attempted or earned.

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.

An Introduction to the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration in California

March, 2012

One of six sites in MDRC’s national demonstration, California’s program, run in partnership with Cash for College, is testing performance-based scholarships of differing amounts and durations that supplement existing aid and that students can use at any accredited postsecondary institution.

October, 2011

This brief summarizes results from performance-based scholarship programs in Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, and Ohio. These scholarships can move the dial on important markers of academic success for students, including credits attempted and earned and rates of full-time enrollment.

An Implementation and Early Impacts Study of Eight Texas Developmental Summer Bridge Programs

October, 2011

For entering college students with low basic skills, eight intensive summer programs provided accelerated instruction in math, reading, and/or writing; academic support; a “college knowledge” component; and the opportunity to receive a $400 stipend. Early results suggest that participants were more likely to pass entry-level college courses in math and writing.

Early Findings from a Performance-Based Scholarship Program at the University of New Mexico

August, 2011

Low-income freshmen received financial support if they enrolled full time, maintained a “C” average, and received enhanced academic advising. After one year, students attempted and earned more credits, received more financial aid dollars and in some cases reduced their loans, and registered for more credits in the third semester.

Early Impacts from the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration in New York

May, 2011

Low-income adults needing remediation received a scholarship if they maintained at least part-time enrollment and met attendance and grade point average benchmarks. Early results show that the program modestly increased full-time enrollment and, among students who were eligible for summer funding, summer registration.

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.

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.

Early Results from the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration in Ohio

October, 2010

Low-income parents at three community colleges in Ohio were offered a cash incentive, contingent on meeting academic benchmarks, to enhance their progress in school. For the first cohort, the performance-based scholarship program increased full-time enrollment and the number of credits attempted and earned, while reducing educational debt.

An Introduction to the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration

October, 2009

This policy brief describes a demonstration launched by MDRC in four states in 2008 to evaluate whether performance-based scholarships — paid contingent on attaining academic benchmarks — are an effective way to improve persistence and academic success among low-income college students. The demonstration builds on positive results from an earlier MDRC study in Louisiana.

Effects of a Performance-Based Scholarship Program for Low-Income Parents

January, 2009

This report describes the impacts of a performance-based scholarship program with a counseling component on academic success and persistence among low-income parents. Students who participated in the program, which was operated at two New Orleans-area colleges as part of MDRC’s multisite Opening Doors demonstration, were more likely to stay in school, get higher grades, and earn more credits.

August, 2008

This issue brief, published by the National High School Center, highlights lessons from selected policies and programs designed to improve students’ preparation for life after high school.

Lessons from the Dreamkeepers and Angel Fund Emergency Financial Aid Programs

May, 2008

For low-income students, education can be easily derailed by a temporary financial emergency, like the loss of a job or a car repair. This final report offers lessons from two programs created by Lumina Foundation for Education that provide emergency grants or loans to help students at risk of dropping out. Eleven community colleges participated in Dreamkeepers, and 26 tribal colleges or universities participated in Angel Fund.

Lessons from Research on Welfare Training Programs and Two Promising Community College Strategies

February, 2008

This working paper, prepared for a conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, reviews what is known about education acquisition by low-wage workers and highlights promising strategies being tested at several community colleges.

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.

Implementation and Early Lessons from the Dreamkeepers and Angel Fund Programs

February, 2007

The report describes early findings from MDRC’s evaluation of the Dreamkeepers Emergency Financial Aid Program and the Angel Fund Program, two pilot programs for community college students who are at risk of dropping out because of unexpected financial crises.

The Effect of Project GRAD on High School Student Outcomes in Three Urban School Districts

July, 2006

This report describes the effects of Project GRAD, an ambitious education reform that targets high schools and the elementary and middle schools that feed into them, on a variety of student outcomes in high schools in Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Columbus, Ohio.

The Effect of Project GRAD on Elementary School
Student Outcomes in Four Urban Districts

July, 2006

This report describes the effects of Project GRAD, an ambitious education reform that targets high schools and the elementary and middle schools that feed into them, on student test scores in elementary schools in Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Columbus, Ohio; and Newark, New Jersey.

Early Results of a Louisiana Scholarship Program for Low-Income Parents Attending Community College

May, 2006

Funded by state welfare dollars, two community colleges in the New Orleans area offered performance-based scholarships and enhanced counseling to low-income parents, as part of MDRC’s Opening Doors demonstration. These early findings show the program had significant positive effects on academic achievement and rates of retention.

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.

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.

How Financial Aid Affects Nontraditional Students in Community Colleges

July, 2003

Examining federal, state, and institutional programs, the paper presents a framework for understanding challenges to securing comprehensive financial assistance for low-income working students.

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

Can existing financial aid programs do more to help low-income college students achieve academic success?

Project Overview

For many low-income college students, one of the biggest barriers to attendance is cost. While federal and state financial aid is available to help with tuition, fees, books, and some living expenses, students still often have unmet need, particularly if they are from the poorest families or are independent from their parents.

Project Overview

Too many students enter college without sufficient skills in English and math to succeed — which forces them to take developmental (or remedial) education courses. Across the nation, roughly 30 percent of entering freshman students enroll in developmental math or English courses.

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

Roughly half of college students and close to 60 percent of community college students do not earn a college credential within six years, leaving them with poor labor market prospects in an economy that increasingly demands a credential in order to find a job.

Project Overview

Launched in Houston in 1993 by James Ketelsen, retired CEO of Tenneco, and since expanded to 12 additional school districts, Project Graduation Really Achieves Dreams (GRAD) combines a variety of promising reforms to improve instruction and raise student achievement in schools that serve primarily minority and low-income students.

Project Overview

Many community college students face unexpected financial emergencies. They may be caused by the loss of a job; a health crisis; an unexpected increase in rent, utilities, or child care costs; or even a fire or natural disaster. Many Americans have been hit hard by the recession.

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.

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