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Paying for persistence: Early results of a Louisiana scholarship program for low-income parents attending community college (Brock & Richburg-Hayes 2006)

Citation

Brock, T., & Richburg-Hayes, L. (2006). Paying for persistence: Early results of a Louisiana scholarship program for low-income parents attending community college. New York: MDRC.

Highlights

    • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of Louisiana Opening Doors, a scholarship program, on semester-to-semester retention and course completion at two community colleges in Louisiana.
    • The study was a randomized controlled trial that compared the outcomes of treatment and control groups over three semesters. The primary data sources were students’ transcripts from the colleges and a baseline survey on students’ background characteristics.
    • The study found that students who participated in the Opening Doors program attempted and passed a greater number of courses, registered for and earned more credits, and were enrolled for more semesters than students in the control group.
    • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Louisiana Opening Doors program, and not to other factors.

Intervention Examined

Opening Doors in Louisiana

Features of the Intervention

The Opening Doors program provided students at Delgado Community College (City Park and West Bank Campuses) and Louisiana Technical College (West Jefferson Campus) with a $1,000 scholarship for each of two semesters if they enrolled at least half-time and earned at least a C average (a 2.0 grade point average). The scholarships were paid out over the course of each semester to ensure that the students adhered to program guidelines. In addition to the scholarships, program participants received enhanced counseling designed to help them address problems that might have prevented continuation of schooling. Eligible students were those who (1) were ages 18 to 34, (2) were parents of at least one dependent child younger than 19, (3) had a family income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, (4) had a high school diploma or general equivalency degree (GED) certificate and a passing score on a college entrance exam, and (5) had no degree or occupational certificate from an accredited college or university.

Features of the Study

This study was a randomized controlled trial in which the authors followed students’ progress over three semesters. The authors applied two-tailed t-tests to regression-adjusted differences between treatment and control groups to estimate the impact of the Opening Doors program on the number of courses attempted and passed, number of credits that students registered for and earned, course withdrawal rate, and number of semesters enrolled. The primary data sources were students’ transcripts from the colleges and a baseline survey on students’ background characteristics. This study examined outcomes in 2004 and 2005, before Hurricane Katrina.

Findings

    • The study found that Opening Doors students registered for any courses at a significantly higher rate than control students in their second and third semesters, and were enrolled for a significantly higher number of semesters overall.
    • Opening Doors students attempted a significantly higher number of courses than control students in their second and third semesters and passed a significantly higher number of courses in their first, second, and third semesters.
    • Opening Doors students registered for and earned a significantly higher number of credits than control students in their first, second, and third semesters, and they earned a significantly higher number of credits overall. They earned a significantly higher number of regular credits in their first, second, and third semesters, and a significantly higher number of developmental credits in their second semester than control students.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The study authors estimated multiple related impacts on outcomes related to students’ progress toward degree completion. Performing multiple statistical tests on related outcomes makes it more likely that some impacts will be found statistically significant purely by chance and not because they reflect program effectiveness. The authors did not perform statistical adjustments to account for the multiple tests, so the number of statistically significant findings in these domains is likely to be overstated.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Louisiana Opening Doors program, and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

October 2015

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