Design, Sites, and Data Sources
The evaluation of CUNY Start uses a random assignment research design, where students are randomly assigned either to (1) the opportunity to participate in CUNY Start, or (2) the opportunity to participate in their college’s regular services. The impact, or value-added, of CUNY Start is estimated by comparing the outcomes for these two groups. Both groups will be tracked for up to three years to determine the effects of the program on reduction and/or elimination of remedial needs and on college-level credit accumulation. The evaluation includes complementary implementation research (led by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University) and cost work.
The study is taking place at four of the six CUNY community colleges that implement CUNY Start. Study intake will occur over several incoming cohorts, starting with a spring 2015 cohort. The target population for the study includes students who fail the writing and math placement assessments for the full-time program, and students who fail one or more of these tests for the part-time program. The study will include between 4,000-4,500 students, 70-80 percent in the CUNY Start group and 20-30 percent in the control group.
Using college transcript records, data will be collected on the main outcomes: reduction and/or elimination of remedial needs and college-level credit accumulation (a proxy for overall progress toward a degree). In addition, program implementation, fidelity, and the service contrast will be examined through surveys (of students and instructors), interviews and focus groups (of students, instructors, advisors/counselors, academic support staff, and administrators), classroom observations, and transcript data.