Absence of conflict of interest.
Negoita, M., Paprocki, A., & Gutierrez, I. (2018). Evaluation of the Idaho Center of Excellence Healthcare Partnership (ICE): Final report. Oakland, CA: Social Policy Research Associates.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Idaho Center of Excellence Healthcare Partnership (ICE) on education outcomes.
- The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare outcomes of students who enrolled in ICE-enhanced courses to a matched comparison group.
- The study found a significant positive association between enrollment in ICE-enhanced courses and prerequisite course completion.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the ICE enhancements; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Idaho Center of Excellence Healthcare Partnership (ICE)
Features of the Intervention
The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program provided $1.9 billion in grants to community colleges to improve skills and support employment in high-demand industries, notably manufacturing, health care, information technology, energy, and transportation. Through four rounds of funding, DOL awarded 256 TAACCCT grants to approximately 800 educational institutions across the United States and its territories.
The Idaho Center of Excellence Healthcare Partnership (ICE) was launched after receipt of a TAACCCT grant and is comprised of three community colleges in Idaho: Northern Idaho College (NIC), Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC), and Idaho State University College of Technology (ISU). The partnership was designed to enhance student services, create more accessible career pathways via creation of additional credit and noncredit programs, increase access by adding online and technology-enabled courses, and accelerate the path for students looking to earn a credit or degree. While ICE was launched in 2014, the implementation effects began occurring in early 2016. Students were eligible to receive benefits if they were enrolled in one of the three community colleges beginning in 2016 and took select ICE-enhanced courses. In particular, the grant aimed to impact students who would eventually enter the healthcare sector (including career pathways in diagnostic services, health informatics, and therapeutic services).
Features of the Study
The nonexperimental study was conducted with students from NIC and LCSC. The authors compared the outcomes of students who enrolled in ICE’s redesigned prerequisite and non-credit courses to students from previous enrollment years who did not take the redesigned courses. Study participants included 13,345 students taking a redesigned prerequisite course and 7,330 students in the comparison group. For non-credit courses, study participants included 1,078 students taking a redesigned course and 176 comparison students. Using administrative data collected by ICE as well as college institutional records, the authors used statistical models to examine group differences in course completion and course passing rates for prerequisite and non-credit courses.
Education and Skills Gain
- The study found a significant relationship between ICE-enhanced course enrollment and course completion for prerequisite courses, with students enrolled in ICE-enhanced courses being 3.5% more likely to complete the prerequisite course than comparison students.
- However, the study did not find a significant relationship between ICE-enhanced course enrollment and passing rates for prerequisite courses.
- The study also did not find a significant relationship between ICE-enhanced course enrollment and course completion for non-credit courses.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors did not account for preexisting differences between the groups before ICE was implemented or include sufficient control variables. Though the authors controlled for age, gender, and enrollment dates, they did not establish baseline equivalence for the degree of financial disadvantage or pre-intervention measure of education or training. When analyzing impacts for noncredit programs, the authors further acknowledge that they did not statistically control for potential confounders. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the ICE enhancements—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. 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 author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the ICE enhancements; other factors are likely to have contributed.