A quasi-experiment using quantitative methods was conducted to examine the effects on academic student outcomes when a cohort of employed low-SES community college commuter students (the treatment group, N=198) participated in a comprehensive support and access intervention program, compared with similar students (the matched comparison group, N=297) not participating in the program. This study was confined to one large, urban community college designated as both a Minority-Serving Institution and Hispanic-Serving Institution. The study was conducted ex post facto, using data collected over a period of six consecutive semesters. This study focused on a subgroup classified as low-income and working poor, terms used to describe individuals who are economically-disadvantaged despite being partially or fully employed.
The program that was studied provided a new-student seminar and orientation, learning communities, supplemental instruction, mentoring and advisement, career counseling, job development and job placement services, and financial assistance. The program was pro-active in nature and was designed to provide consistent and sustained intervention over the entire course of enrollment, from matriculation to graduation.
Students in the comparison group were matched to the treatment group through propensity score matching, using such covariates as age, gender, race/ethnicity, household income and financial aid awarded, previous academic preparation, enrollment load, and academic major. Student outcomes included measures of retention, graduation, early transfer, GPA, credits earned, and pass-rates for college-level gateway courses. The relationship between the treatment and student outcomes was determined using descriptive methods (Pearson's Chi Square for categorical outcomes, Independent Samples T-test for continuous outcomes) and multivariate analysis (logistic regression to analyze categorical outcomes, linear regression to analyze continuous outcomes).
Results demonstrate that participation in a comprehensive support and access intervention program for low-income and working-poor is associated with a significant positive effect on community college semester-to-semester retention rates and graduation rates. Furthermore, over the study period participants in the program maintained a higher cumulative GPA, attempted and earned more college credits, and had higher pass-rates for college-level gateway courses. Correlation between the treatment and early-student-transfer was statistically insignificant although early-student-transfer among students in the treatment group was less frequent compared to students in the matched comparison group.