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Coordinated studies programs: Their effect on student involvement at a community college (Tinto & Russo 1994)

Citation

Tinto, V., & Russo, P. (1994). Coordinated studies programs: Their effect on student involvement at a community college. Community College Review, 22(2), 16-25.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of coordinated studies programs (CSPs) on students’ persistence in college.
  • The authors used administrative data to compare reenrollment rates between a treatment group of students enrolled in CSP classes and a comparison group of students enrolled in humanities and social science classes.
  • The study found that the spring reenrollment rate for CSP students was 84 percent, significantly higher than the 81 percent rate for comparison students. The fall reenrollment rate for CSP students was 67 percent, significantly higher than the 52 percent rate for comparison students.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not control for relevant student characteristics in the analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to CSPs. Other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Coordinated Studies Programs

Features of the Intervention

A CSP consists of a set of linked courses organized around a central theme. Students enrolled as if they were taking separate courses in different disciplines and fields but attended the CSP as one course that met for a total of 11 to 18 hours per week in blocks of 4 to 6 hours over two to four days. CSPs were team-taught by two to four faculty members who were present and active in all class sessions.

Features of the Study

The authors used administrative data to compare reenrollment rates between the treatment and comparison groups. The authors formed the treatment group (121 students) by selecting students in first-year CSP classes in the liberal arts and transfer division of Seattle Central Community College. They formed the comparison group (166 students) by selecting students in humanities and social science classes who program staff believed were a representative sample of first-year students who had not enrolled in the CSP. First-year students who completed two surveys on perceptions of the school environment took part in the study.

Findings

  • The study found that the spring reenrollment rate for CSP students was 84 percent, significantly higher than the 81 percent rate for comparison students.
  • The fall reenrollment rate for CSP students was 67 percent, significantly higher than the 52 percent rate for comparison students.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors did not include controls for student characteristics in their analysis of reenrollment rates, so estimated impacts could reflect pre-existing differences between the groups being compared, and not program impacts. For example, students who chose to enroll in the CSP might have had higher academic achievement and persistence than students who did not. Therefore, the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating, the highest rating available for nonexperimental designs.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not control for relevant student characteristics in the analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to CSPs. Other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

October 2015

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