Program

Jul 07, 2016

 

OVERVIEW

Opening Doors is a semester-long learning-community program for college freshmen that promotes students’ academic achievement. The program goals are to build peer relationships, intensify connections to faculty, and deepen understanding of coursework. An experimental study assessed the impact of the standard program, as well as that of an enhanced version. Experimental studies in three different colleges demonstrated the following results: the program increased the average number of credits earned, the proportion of students who earned a grade-point average of 2.0 or higher, and the proportion who moved off academic probation. Additionally, students in the program had more connections with other students and faculty, were more engaged in the classroom, and were more likely to re-enroll in college after one semester.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Freshman students in community college

Opening Doors is a learning-community program for college-aged students, which promotes students’ involvement and persistence in college.  The program goals are to help students succeed in their classes, move off academic probation, and, ultimately,

persist in college and earn a degree or transfer to a four-year institution. Lasting one semester, the program includes an optional College Success course, visits to Success Centers (for one-on-one instruction), and enhanced counseling. The Enhanced Opening Doors program is identical, with the exception that the College Success course is required.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

California

Scrivener, S., Sommo, C., & Collado, H. (2009). Getting back on track: effects of a community college program for probationary students. MDRC. New York, NY.

Weiss, M.J., Brock, T., Sommo, C. Rudd, T. & Turner, M.C. (2011). Serving community college students on probation; Four-year findings from Chaffey College’s Opening Doors program. MDRC. New York, NY.

Evaluated population: All students attended a community college in southern California. For the Opening Doors evaluation, a total of 898 students were randomized into the intervention group (n=448) or the control group (n=450). For the Enhanced Opening Doors evaluation, a total of 444 students were randomized into the intervention group (n=224) or the control group (n=220).  Overall, the sample was 40 percent male.  The sample 53 percent Hispanic/Latino, 23 percent white, 14 percent black, 6 percent Asian, and 4 percent “other” students. Most sample members (59 percent) were between 18 and 20 years of age when they were randomly assigned.

Approach: The program was targeted to students who met the following criteria: 1) on academic probation, 2) had earned fewer than 35 credits toward a degree or credential, 3) did not have an associate’s degree (or higher), 4) had a high school diploma or GED certificate, and 5) was between 18 and 34 years of age.

The learning communities operated during semester-long periods between 2005 and 2006. To recruit students for the Opening Doors component, the college sent letters to eligible students, informing them about the program, its benefits, and the study.  Students on academic probation were encouraged to attend an orientation session. Once randomized, the intervention group was encouraged to register for the College Success course. A similar recruitment strategy was used for the Enhanced Opening Doors component.  However, the letter told eligible students that they would be required to attend the orientation session.  Likewise, at the orientation session students were told they were required to register for College Success course.

The outcome areas measured were: 1) outcomes, and 2) social, psychological, and health (the latter were measured only for the standard Opening Doors component). Several data sources were utilized during the study, including: college transcript data; academic probation data; National Student Clearinghouse data; a survey administered 12 months after random assignment; a faculty survey; and qualitative interviews with students and faculty.

Results: Study 1: The key findings were: 1) the standard Opening Doors program did not meaningfully affect students’ academic outcomes. Program group students were no more likely to get off probation than were control group students; 2) in contrast, the Enhanced Opening Doors program improved students’ academic outcomes: it increased the average number of credits earned, the proportion of students who earned a grade point average of 2.0 or higher, and the proportion who moved off probation.

Study 2: Four-year results for students in the Enhanced Opening Doors program produced the following key findings: 1) optional program activities had lower participation rates, compared with required program activities, 2) after two semesters, intervention group students earned more credits and were nearly twice as likely as control group students to be in good academic standing, and 3) the program did not meaningfully improve students’ long-term academic outcomes.

New York

Scrivener, S., Bloom, D., LeBlanc, A.J., Paxson, C., Rouse, C.E., & Sommo, C. (2008). A Good Start: Two-year effects of a freshmen learning community program at Kingsborough Community College. MDRC.  New York, NY. 

Sommo, C., Mayer, A.K., Rudd, T., & Cullinan, D. (2012). Commencement Day: Six-year effects of a freshman learning community program at Kingsborough Community College. MDRC.  New York, NY.

Weiss, M.J., Mayer, A., Cullinan, D., Ratledge, A., Sommo, C., & Diamond, J. (2014). A random assignment evaluation of learning communities at Kingsborough Community College: Seven years later. MDRC.  New York, NY.

Evaluated population: A total of 1,534 students at a community college in Brooklyn, New York, were randomized into the intervention group (n=769) or the control group (n=765). The sample was 45 percent male. Participants were between 17 and 34 years of age. The sample included 38 percent black, 27 percent white, 20 percent Hispanic, 9 percent Asian, and 6 percent “other” students.

Approach: The learning communities operated during semester-long periods between 2003 and 2005. The program was targeted to students who met the following criteria: 1) was a first-time incoming freshman who planned to attend college full-time during the day, 2) did not test into ESL (that is, tested into either developmental English or college-level English), and 3) was age 17 to 34. To enroll students in the study, the research team and the community college staff worked together to insert the recruitment and random assignment procedures into the college’s student registration process. Students who agreed to participate received a small incentive, and then were randomly assigned to either the program group or the control group, and were given appropriate assistance registering for classes.

The outcome areas measured were: 1) educational and 2) social, psychological, and health. Several data sources were utilized during the study, including: community college transcript data; skills assessment test score data; National Student Clearinghouse data; a survey administered 12 months after random assignment; a faculty survey; and qualitative interviews with students.

Results: Two-Year Effects Cohort: The study showed significant results for the intervention group compared to the control group.  The key findings were: 1) the program improved students’ college experience. Students in the program group felt more integrated and more engaged in the college experience than students in the control group; 2) the program also improved some educational outcomes while students were in the learning community program, including their attempting and passing more courses, and earning more credits during their first semester; 3) students in the program group were more likely to take and pass English skills assessment tests that are required for graduation or transfer; and 4) initially, the program did not change the rate at which students re-enrolled. However, in the last semester of the report’s two-year follow-up period, statistically significant results showed that slightly more program group members than control group members attended college.

Six-Year Effects Cohort: The study showed significant results for the intervention group, compared to the control group. The key findings were: 1) the program increased  by 4.6 percentage points the proportion of students who earned a degree after six years, and 2) the program is cost-effective. In particular, the cost per degree earned was lower for the program group than it was for the control group.

Seven-Year Effects Cohort: The study showed significant results for the intervention group, compared to the control group. The key findings were: 1) the program’s positive effects on short-term academic progress (credit accumulation) were maintained seven years after random assignment, and 2) the results provide some limited evidence that the program positively affected graduation rates, particularly for those students without remedial English needs.

Ohio

Scrivener, S. & Pih, M. (2007). Enhancing student services at Owens Community College: Early results from the Opening Doors demonstration in Ohio. MDRC. New York, NY. 

Evaluated population: A total of 1,241 students at a community college in Ohio were randomized into the intervention group (n=622) or the control group (n=619). The sample was 72 percent female. The sample included 51 percent white, 36 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic, and smaller percentages of American Indian, Asian, multiracial, and “other” students. The average age was 23 years.

Approach: The two semester-long learning communities operated between 2004 and 2006. The program was targeted to students who met the following criteria: 1) age 18 to 34, 2) family income below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, 3) beginning freshmen, 4) high school diploma or GED certificate, and 5) no associate’s degree.  Once eligible students were recruited for the study, participants were assigned to the treatment or control group using computer-generated random numbers.

The primary outcome measured was academic persistence—that is, re-enrollment in college. The data source was student transcript data from the college.

Results: The key findings include: 1) students in the program group were more likely than students in the control group to re-enroll in college after one semester, and they registered for more credits; 2) the increase in enrollment ended when the program’s services ended. In the semester after the program’s end, enrollment and course registration rates for the two research groups were similar.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Scrivener, S., Sommo, C., & Collado, H. (2009). Getting back on track: Effects of a community college program for probationary students. MDRC. New York, NY.

Weiss, M.J., Brock, T., Sommo, C. Rudd, T. & Turner, M.C. (2011). Serving community college students on probation; Four-year findings from Chaffey College’s Opening Doors program. MDRC. New York, NY.

Scrivener, S., Bloom, D., LeBlanc, A.J., Paxson, C., Rouse, C.E., & Sommo, C. (2008). A good start: Two-year effects of a freshmen learning community program at Kingsborough Community College. MDRC.  New York, NY.

Sommo, C., Mayer, A.K., Rudd, T., & Cullinan, D. (2012). Commencement day: Six-year effects of a freshman learning community program at Kingsborough Community College. MDRC.  New York, NY.

Weiss, M.J., Mayer, A., Cullinan, D., Ratledge, A., Sommo, C., & Diamond, J. (2014). A random assignment evaluation of learning communities at Kingsborough Community College. MDRC.  New York, NY.

Scrivener, S. & Pih, M. (2007). Enhancing student services at Owens Community College: Early results from the Opening Doors demonstration in Ohio. MDRC. New York, NY.

MDRC website: www.mdrc.org

KEYWORDS: Youth (16+), Young Adults (18-24), College, Males and Females (Co-ed), White/Caucasian, Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Multiracial, American Indian/Alaska Native, Urban, School-based, Tutoring, Academic Achievement/Grades, Academic Motivation/Self-Concept/Expectations/Engagement

Program information last updated 7/7/2016.

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