Relative Impact of Interventions to Improve Achievement and Retention in Postsecondary Occupational Programs

Project Overview

Principal Investigators

Christine D. Bremer
Research Associate
Institute on Community Integration
University of Minnesota
David R. Johnson
Institute on Community Integration
University of Minnesota
Bruce A. Center
Research Associate
University of Minnesota
Marisa Castellano
Principal Investigator
Amy S. Hirschy
Assistant Professor
Educational and Counseling Psychology
University of Louisville

Community colleges have been implementing a number of interventions in their efforts to improve retention but lack solid information as to which are most closely associated with student retention and program completion for students in occupational programs, and which students are best served by which interventions.

This study examines the association between interventions currently used by community colleges and student retention and program completion rates. Many of these interventions are part of student support services or are integrated within colleges’ academic curricula, and an aim of this study is to identify the elements of those interventions that are related to students’ continued enrollment (retention) and college success (primarily program completion, but also course completion and passing grades). This study seeks to inform the field regarding the relationship between college-provided interventions and student retention and program completion in community colleges.

In recent years, states and individual community colleges have begun to systematically collect more data than they did in the past, often because of state-level mandates for increased accountability in postsecondary education. Taking advantage of this trend by using each institution’s existing data as the primary basis for analysis, researchers are examining which interventions and combinations of interventions are most strongly associated with retention and completion for students at community colleges, and how student background variables and other characteristics mediate and moderate those associations. The study is tracking the entire entering classes of first-time postsecondary students enrolling in Fall 2009 and Fall 2010 at four participating sites through Spring 2012, examining relationships among non-malleable variables (e.g., age, gender), malleable variables (e.g., participation in developmental education, advising, tutoring), and student achievement and retention outcomes.