A Random Assignment Evaluation of Learning Communities at Kingsborough Community College
Seven Years Later
Community colleges play a vital role in higher education, enrolling more than one in every three postsecondary students. While the market share of these institutions has grown over the past 50 years, students’ success rates remain low. Consequently, community college stakeholders are searching with mounting urgency for strategies that increase rates of success. We evaluate the effects of one such strategy, learning communities, from a randomized trial of over 1,500 students at a large urban college in the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Findings indicate that the program’s positive effects on short-term academic progress (credit accumulation) are maintained seven years after random assignment. In addition, the analysis provides some limited evidence that the program positively affected graduation rates, particularly for those students without remedial English needs, over this period. At the same time, however, there is no discernible evidence that the program improved economic outcomes. This paper concludes by offering sobering reflections on trying to detect the effects of higher education interventions on future earnings.