Developmental summer bridge programs are a popular strategy for increasing college readiness among recent high school graduates. Aimed at providing an alternative to traditional developmental education, these programs provide accelerated and focused learning opportunities in order to help students acquire the knowledge and skills needed for college success.
The current study uses an experimental design to evaluate the outcomes of eight developmental summer bridge programs offered in Texas during the summer of 2009. At each college, students who consented to participate in the study were randomly assigned to either a program group that was eligible to participate in a developmental summer bridge program or a control group that was eligible to use any other services that the college provided. Based on a program model developed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the developmental summer bridge programs in this study included four common features: accelerated instruction in developmental math, reading, and/or writing; academic support; a "college knowledge" component; and the opportunity to earn a $400 stipend.
After two years of follow-up, these are the main findings of this study:
- The programs had no effect on the average number of credits attempted or earned. Program group and control group students attempted the same number of credits (30.3). Students in the program group earned an average of 19.4 credits, and students in the control group earned an average of 19.9 credits; the difference in their outcomes is not statistically significant.
- The programs had an impact on first college-level course completion in math and writing that was evident in the year and a half following the program but no impact on first college-level course completion in reading during this same period. On average, students in the program group passed their first college-level math and writing courses at higher rates than students in the control group during this period. By the end of the two-year follow-up period, however, the differences between the two groups are no longer statistically significant.
- There is no evidence that the programs impacted persistence. During the two-year follow-up period, students in the program group enrolled in an average of 3.3 semesters, and students in the control group enrolled in an average of 3.4 semesters, a difference that is not statistically significant.