MDRC in the News

We Can Help Low-Income Students, First-Gen Students and Students of Color Succeed in College, but Not Without Support

Commentary by Alexander Mayer and Catherine Brown
The Hechinger Report

08/2021

Growing up in a northwest suburb of Chicago, Edward Blanco had big dreams and a lot of questions. His parents, immigrants from Guatemala, did not speak English or know how to use a computer. Edward’s academic skills were strong, but the path to college was murky — until the day during his senior year of high school when he was summoned to the auditorium to learn about an organization called One Million Degrees (OMD).  

He learned that OMD would set him up with a mentor, scholarship aid and, perhaps most importantly, encouragement. 

The program is one of a number of such comprehensive programs across the country achieving striking results in helping low-income students, students of color and first-generation students succeed in college — and that could be scaled nationally through President Biden’s American Families Plan…..

…..Similar programs have had similar success according to other randomized trials, the highest standard of evidence.  

The City University of New York’s ASAP program has nearly doubled graduation rates among participants in three community colleges in New York City and at three colleges in Ohio

InsideTrack, which operates nationwide, also increased college persistence, and the Detroit Promise Path increased college credit accumulation. Project QUEST in San Antonio, Texas, improved participants’ earnings by nearly $20,000 over nine years.  

Also in Texas, the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement increased students’ credit accumulation and certificate attainment, as did an enhanced version of Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program that included additional financial support and advising services.  

Taken together, this body of evidence tells a clear and compelling story: Programs that take a comprehensive approach are working. In fact, this approach is supported by the strongest body of evidence of any strategy aimed at improving college persistence and completion…..

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