MDRC and ICPSR Make Available Largest Dataset from Randomized Controlled Trials in Higher Education


Last month marked the release of version 1.0 of MDRC’s The Higher Education Randomized Controlled Trial (THE-RCT) restricted-access dataset on ICPSR. THE-RCT is the largest individual-participant dataset from higher education randomized controlled trials, containing data from 25+ RCTs encompassing 45+ higher education institutions and 55,000+ students. MDRC researchers are currently using this database to explore research questions such as:

  • Once a program is over, are student gains maintained? Do they fade out? Do they grow? To find out what we’ve learned (and see how the database can be used) see here.
  • Which program components (for example, enhanced advising) are associated with larger improvements in student success?
  • What sized improvements in student success should various programs expect to achieve?
  • Do short-term program effects predict long-term program effects?

MDRC and ICPSR hope this dataset will inspire new scholarship that will help improve outcomes for low-income, underrepresented, and underprepared students, who have long been a focus of MDRC’s higher education studies. It also can serve as an excellent resource for methodological research and teaching and learning. The dataset will continue to grow as MDRC and other organizations add additional higher education RCTs.

For more information on using the database, visit ICPSR. If you’re conducting a higher education RCT and want to include it in THE-RCT, please reach out to [email protected] or [email protected].

Funding for The Higher Education Randomized Controlled Trials (THE-RCT) project was provided by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through grant R305A190161 to MDRC. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education. The database for THE-RCT was created with generous support from Arnold Ventures.