Community College to Career–California


MDRC will design and conduct a demonstration and rigorous evaluation of a web-based advising tool to improve the outcomes of students enrolled in career-technical programs in California community colleges. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education under a grant for the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL West), the project started in late 2012 and is expected to be completed by 2017.

Much attention in recent years has focused on the low success rates of students in developmental education in community colleges, but much less focus is given to how students fare in programs designed to prepare them for direct entry into the workforce. Only half of students enrolled in certificate programs nationwide earn a credential of any kind within six years of enrollment. Of those who earn a credential, many fail to find a job that pays a living wage in a field related to the credential. Paradoxically, employers in California and elsewhere in the Unites States continue to report not being able to find skilled employees to fill job vacancies, particularly in such sectors as advanced manufacturing, informational technology, and health services.

Arguably one of the greatest barriers to student success is poor access to high-quality information about programs of study and how to navigate college settings. A typical college adviser has more than 1,500 students in his or her caseload. On-line advising tools, proliferating across the country, are seen as a low-cost and effective way to enhance in-person advising and dissemination of critical information students need to succeed.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

The project will evaluate the effectiveness of a web-based, personalized advising tool as a strategy to encourage students to make more informed decisions and engage in behaviors likely to lead to better outcomes.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

MDRC will select one or two community colleges in California with whom to partner in the customization and implementation of an advising tool. Random assignment of students in the target group will be used to create program and control groups. Participation and outcomes will be measured using data collected by the advising tool itself and student records provided by the college.