In 2007, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) funded 22 colleges to establish developmental summer bridge programs. Aimed at providing an alternative to traditional developmental education, these programs involve intensive remedial instruction in math, reading, and/or writing and college preparation content for students entering college with low basic skills. In 2009, the National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR) — of which MDRC is a founding partner — launched an evaluation of eight developmental summer bridge programs in Texas (seven at community colleges and one at an open-admissions four-year university), the early findings of which are described in this report.
Students who participated in the study were randomly assigned to the program group or the control group. Program group students participated in the developmental summer bridge programs, while control group students received colleges’ regular services. All developmental summer bridge programs had four common features: accelerated instruction in math, reading, and/or writing; academic support; a "college knowledge" component; and the opportunity for participants to receive a $400 stipend.
The main findings of this preliminary report are:
- All eight programs in the study were implemented with reasonable fidelity to the model framed by the THECB, but they varied on some key dimensions.
- Program costs averaged about $1,300 per student but varied widely.
- Program group students did not enroll in either the fall or spring semester at significantly different rates than control group students; enrollment rates were high for both groups.
- There is evidence that the program students were more likely to pass college-level courses in math and writing in the fall semester following the summer programs. The findings also suggest that program students were more likely to attempt higher-level reading, writing, and math courses compared with control group students.