Montana’s Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) is expanding its evidence-based scholarship and student supports program called Montana 10. The Montana 10 model was designed to provide students with a combined set of targeted strategies that help them overcome barriers that may otherwise cause them to drop out of college. In particular, the comprehensive supports that make up Montana 10 were designed to meet the unique needs of Montana students, including students who are rural, low-income, and Native American. Montana 10 was also designed to meet the dual goals of student success and institutional success. In Montana’s small rural communities, where low rates of college enrollment, retention, and completion threaten institutional viability and economic development, Montana 10 aims to demonstrate that comprehensive student success programs are good for students and have a positive return on investment for the state and institutions. 

Montana 10 includes ten targeted, evidence-based strategies categorized into three groups:

  • Financial support: tuition waivers, textbook stipends, and a monthly financial incentive contingent on program participation;
  • Academic support: requiring a full-time schedule of 30 credits per year, corequisite math and writing courses that enroll students simultaneously in remedial and college-level courses for extra support, and tutoring;
  • Student support: services that improve knowledge and sense of belonging, including case management advising, career development, orientation, and a first-year seminar.

To support the expansion of this program, MDRC will evaluate Montana 10 using a randomized controlled trial to determine whether the program is working as intended. This evaluation will support OCHE’s goal of serving more students, ensuring that program services are delivered effectively, and sustaining the program long term.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

MDRC will evaluate Montana 10 using a randomized controlled trial (RCT). The RCT will enroll approximately 1,500 students. The focus of the impact analysis will be the effect of Montana 10 on students’ academic outcomes like enrollment, persistence, credit accumulation, and ultimately, credential receipt. As part of the study, we will analyze program costs and conduct in-depth surveys and focus groups to learn about students’ experiences, understand program implementation, and inform continuous improvement efforts.

The RCT will enroll students in two cohorts: Fall 2023 and Fall 2024. The first look at findings from the study will be published in late 2025.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

Students who meet the Montana 10 eligibility criteria will be randomly assigned to either the program group to participate in Montana 10 or to a control group to receive standard university services. The institutions participating in the Montana 10 RCT are:  

  • University of Montana
  • Missoula College
  • Montana State University Billings
  • City College at Montana State University Billings
  • Helena College
  • Montana Technological University
  • University of Montana Western
  • Highlands College

Data sources will include administrative data from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education system office, transcript data collected from the colleges, National Student Clearinghouse data, a student survey, and interviews with students and staff.