Experimental Evidence on Interventions to Improve Educational Attainment at Community Colleges

Handbook of the Sociology of Education in the 21st Century. (2018)

David Monaghan, Tammy Kolbe, and Sara Goldrick-Rab

America’s community colleges play a major role in increasing access to higher education and, as open access institutions, they are key points of entry to postsecondary education for historically underrepresented populations. However, their students often fall short of completing degrees. Policymakers, scholars, and philanthropists are dedicating unprecedented attention and resources to identifying strategies to improve retention, academic performance, and degree completion among community college students. This chapter reviews experimental evidence on their effectiveness, finding that they often meet with limited success because they typically target just one or two aspects of students’ lives, are of short duration, and fail to improve the institutional context. They also rarely address a serious structural constraint: limited resources. We discuss new directions for future interventions, research and evaluation.

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