Feb 08, 2013


The Student Success Course, based on the On Course curriculum, is designed to help remedial students adjust to college life.  The class, designed for a community college setting, teaches good study habits, personal responsibility, and self-awareness. While the course had positive impacts on these skills for those struggling with them, there was no impact on academic achievement.  However, evaluation was difficult because of the high number of students who dropped the course before it had started, many of whom took no classes that semester at all.


Target population: New community college students requiring remedial courses.

The On Course Student Success Course is a class designed to ease the transition into college life.  Trained teachers help students to develop good study habits and time management; basic research skills; awareness of their own emotions and learning style; awareness of others’ emotions and needs; and a sense of personal responsibility for their education.   The course is a full semester of traditional assignments combined with small-group activities, journal writing, and informal class presentations.  The basics of the On Course curriculum are available online, while the full manual is available for those interested in a hard copy.


Rutschow, E. Z., Cullinan, D., Welbeck, R. (2012). Keeping students on course: An impact study of a student success course at Guilford Technical Community College. MDRC, New York.

Evaluated population: At Guilford Technical Community College, in Greensboro, NC, students were offered the course for two credits.  Only students who had taken less than 20 credit hours, were required to take developmental (remedial) courses, and who were not enrolled in a major that already required the course were permitted in the study.  Of the 911 students who signed up for the class over three semesters, 458 were placed in the program group, via a lottery, and were eligible to take the class.  Sixty-nine percent of the total sample were female; 54 percent were under the age of 21, while 24 percent were older than 30.  Fifty-nine percent were black, 29 percent were white, and six percent were Hispanic.  Twenty-eight percent were financially dependent on their parents, and 54 percent were employed at the time of the study.

Approach: Students who signed up for the class were either allowed to enroll in the course (treatment) or not allowed to enroll (control), as determined by lottery; all were required to fill out a demographic survey to participate.   However, because randomization took place before the semester and the class was not mandatory, 30 percent of the students enrolled dropped the class before the end of the first week of classes, and 14 percent of those enrolled ended up taking no classes at all.  During each semester that the course was offered, researchers collected qualitative data implementation of the classes.  In the semester following the course, all students were given a survey that measured motivation, self-management, personal responsibility, interdependence, self-awareness, study ability, emotional intelligence, belief in self, and positive engagement in class.  They were also asked about their use of the college’s advising, counseling, and academic help services. Additionally, two years of transcripts following the beginning of the course were analyzed for academic persistence, grades, enrollment status, and credits earned.

Results: There were no significant differences between treatment and control groups in the proportion of students that scored high on each socio-emotional survey question. However, significantly fewer students in the treatment group scored very low on self-management, interdependence, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, belief in self, positive engagement, and study ability.

Overall, there were no impacts on academic performance or use of school services.  However, qualitative data from the implementation study provided evidence that the teachers in the second and third semesters of the study were less enthusiastic and sure of the program they were teaching. In the first semester, teachers of the course were trained by the program developer, whereas in the second and third semesters they were trained by other teachers.  When considering only students from the first semester, there were positive impacts on their ability to successfully pass courses, even including the 30 percent of students who never participated in the course.



Rutschow, E. Z., Cullinan, D., Welbeck, R. (2012). Keeping students on course: An impact study of a student success course at Guilford Technical Community College. MDRC, New York.


Contact Information

Skip Downing

KEYWORDS: Young Adults, College, Males and Females, School bases, cost, manual, academic achievement/grades, Academic Motivation/Self-concept/Expectations/Engagement, helping behavior/Social Responsibility, Social Skills/Life Skills, Self-Esteem/Self-Concept

Program information last updated on 2/8/2013.