Tag Archives: #RealCollege

Addressing transportation barriers for low-income students and working adults is needed to improve college access and success

Last year, the Kresge Foundation brought together a small group of thought leaders, transit officials, and higher education leaders working on transportation and college access and success. These “pace setters” identified key transportation barriers as well as promising solutions that focused on the role of mass transit systems in helping students get to college from home and work – a critical issue for low-income students and working adults attending public 2-year and 4-year institutions. Recent data from the College Board underscores the significant costs of transportation for an average commuter student, which accounts for 18% of their total living expenses.

We produced a topical brief, Overcoming Transportation Barriers to Improve Postsecondary Success, that examines the nexus between transportation and higher education based on a review of research literature and publicly available reports, interviews from a convenience sample of professionals working on these issues, and ideas curated from a Roundtable hosted by the Kresge Foundation. The brief provides three key takeaways:

  1.  1. Colleges and Universities have been providing transportation solutions for students for at least two decades, including discounted or free transit passes, shuttle or vanpool programs, and more recently, partnerships with rideshare companies.
  2. 2. Although transportation barriers are widely believed to affect college access and success, there is very little evidence documenting the relationship between student retention and completion in college with the availability and utilization of transportation programs.
  3. 3. Transportation solutions must account for the capacity of public mass transit systems – namely the extent to which they are robust and far-reaching in a community.

Transportation barriers include cost and affordability; route frequencies and schedules; housing and work proximity; and, reliability and quality. To address these barriers, colleges and mass transit systems need to collaborate and cost-share in ways that benefit students. The good news is that such collaboration can yield increased ridership for public transportation and increased retention for colleges and universities, which can yield increased revenues for both.

There appears to be a preponderance of programmatic solutions to meet the transportation needs of low-income students and working adults – including the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority’s U-Pass program with 15 college and university partners; and the City Colleges of Chicago’s Ventra U-Pass program for full-time students. These programs have strong ridership, and there are anecdotal stories of how they benefit students; yet before policy solutions and private investments can be scaled, there is a need to build the evidence-base by documenting the impact of transportation solutions – especially discounted or free transit passes for student – on college retention and completion.

We stand ready to partner with LA Metro and City Colleges of Chicago – and with the Kresge Foundation – to help demonstrate the viability of these transit pass programs by conducting quasi-experimental and experimental studies of their impact. By focusing a demonstration and evaluation on public 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities in large urban environments, we can also shed light on how equity in college access and success can be further supported and achieved.

Derek V. Price

Providing support services for students improve educational and employment outcomes – a benefit for students, colleges, and employers.

Last month marked the end of four rounds of federal investments in community and technical colleges through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant program. In this final round, we evaluated Wisconsin’s Advancing Careers and Training for Healthcare (ACT) consortium grant, a statewide project with participation from all colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) to develop, improve, and expand education and training pathways for healthcare related occupations.

As part of the third-party evaluation, we conducted an impact study focused on grant participants enrolled in healthcare programs of study who received grant-funded support services, including academic and non-academic supports provided inside and outside the classroom. The Executive Summary of our evaluation can be found here; we also invite you to download the full report.

The delivery of support services was the most common strategy implemented across the consortium to improve participant outcomes. Approximately 70% of ACT for Healthcare participants in grant-funded programs, representing 2,297 students, received at least one grant-funded support service. Academic supports were more widespread across the consortium than non-academic supports, reaching a larger number of students. Academic supports delivered in class reached the largest number of participants (1,173 students) while out-of-class academic supports was the second largest support service type, reaching 785 participants. Grant-funded non-academic supports also reached a substantial number of participants; for example, non-academic supports delivered within classrooms reached 715 participants. It is important to note that many colleges implemented multiple support types; for example, a combination of academic and non-academic supports, or a combination of supports delivered both in-class and out-of-class. Of the nearly 2,300 participants receiving support services, one-third received more than one support service type.

A second reason for focusing the impact study on these participants is the growing national attention to the importance of support services for adult learners. The provision of academic and non-academic supports is an increasingly popular strategy pursued by community and technical colleges nationwide to boost success and completion rates for their students. According to recent estimates, fewer than 40% of community college students go on to earn a postsecondary credential of any kind within six years. Barriers to completion are often academic in nature, as an increasing proportion of students arrive to college academically unprepared. However, many community and technical college students also face challenges not directly related to academics, including balancing study with work, childcare, and other life responsibilities; financial pressures; personal health needs; and uncertainty regarding career goals, how college courses connect with job opportunities, and how to prepare and search for employment. The prominence of this issue is evidenced by the growing interest in #RealCollege – a national movement of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers catalyzed by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University.

The evaluation results are quite strong:

74% of treatment students earned a postsecondary credential, versus 51% for a matched comparison group.
Treatment students were eight percentage points more likely to be retained into the next semester, and seven percentage points more likely to be retained one year later, compared to a matched comparison group.
45% of treatment students who were unemployed at the start of their program had gained employment one quarter after program exit, compared to 37% for a matched comparison group of non-incumbent workers.
Treatment students who were incumbent workers were six percentage points more likely to experience quarterly earnings gains following program exit, compared to a matched comparison group of incumbent workers.

In short, providing support services for healthcare students generates benefits for students, colleges, and employers—suggesting that this approach to enhanced education and training should be an essential aspect of institutional reform efforts with potential replicability to sectors beyond healthcare.

By investing in academic and non-academic support services, colleges can increase the number of students with the skills needed to enter the labor market prepared for employment and upward mobility; while enhancing their revenue through improved institutional retention and completion rates. Moreover, these supports help colleges better serve adult students who need additional skills and re-training, and who reflect an increasingly diverse pool of potential students and workers.

Derek V. Price