Impact of Transportation Supports on Students’ Academic Outcomes: A Quasi-Experimental Study of the U-Pass at Rio Hondo College

Impact of Transportation Supports on Students’ Academic Outcomes: A Quasi-Experimental Study of the U-Pass at Rio Hondo College

For many students, transportation presents a barrier to college completion. In 2020–21, the average commuter student could expect to spend nearly one-fifth of their total living expenses on transportation costs. Transportation is especially crucial for community college students, nearly all of whom commute. While 28% of community colleges nationwide offer on-campus housing, only 1% of community college students reside on campus. 

This brief provides results from a quasi-experimental study on the impact of transportation supports on short- and longer-term academic outcomes for community college students at Rio Hondo College. Established in 2016 as a partnership between the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency and participating area colleges and universities, including Rio Hondo College, the Universal College Student Transit Pass (U-Pass) provides college students with deeply discounted transit fares.

Findings from this study suggest that transportation supports like U-Pass offer a promising strategy for increasing the likelihood that students will:

  • remain enrolled one semester and one year later;
  • complete a greater number of credits; and
  • earn a credential.

This research was graciously supported by the Kresge Foundation.

We also wish to thank our partners at DVP-PRAXIS LTD, who led this research effort; our partners at Rise, who contributed student stories to the brief; and the staff and students at Rio Hondo College, without whom this research would not have been possible.