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Stay the Course: Evaluating an Intervention to Promote Community College Persistence and Graduation Rates
Last registered on February 27, 2014


Trial Information
General Information
Stay the Course: Evaluating an Intervention to Promote Community College Persistence and Graduation Rates
Initial registration date
Not yet registered
Last updated
February 27, 2014 10:14 AM EST
Primary Investigator
University of Notre Dame
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Maryland
PI Affiliation
University of Notre Dame
Additional Trial Information
On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
This study evaluates a community college intervention program, Stay the Course, that is designed to address the “life barriers” – as distinct from specific academic barriers – that challenge many economically-disadvantaged students. The goal of the study is to determine whether an intervention of this type is effective at increasing community college persistence and graduation rates. The key components of intervention are coaching/mentoring services and emergency financial assistance. The program is being run by a community service provider in agreement with a large community college in Fort Worth, TX. We will use administrative records to track student academic outcomes for at least three years post random assignment. The main outcomes of interest are total credit hours completed, re-enrollment rates, and degrees or certificates obtained. Demographic data obtained from student records will be used to investigate how treatment effects vary across student subgroups.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Evans, William, Melissa Kearney and James Sullivan. 2014. "Stay the Course: Evaluating an Intervention to Promote Community College Persistence and Graduation Rates." AEA RCT Registry. February 27. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.223-1.0.
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Experimental Details
Study subjects are randomly selected to receive services through a program called Stay the Course. This program is designed to help income students succeed in a community college setting. Stay the Course has two key components: full-service, wrap-around case management and access to emergency financial assistance. In the case management component, a trained social service provider from outside the college works individually with a student to address their personal challenges and create a holistic, long-term plan for educational success. This service helps students to navigate the community college system and absorb shocks in their personal life that threaten their ability to complete a degree. Emergency Financial Assistance provides students with resources to cover emergency non-academic expenses or income shortfalls that could negatively impact their persistence in college.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
credit hours completed, GPA, degree completion, transfers to four year college, time to completion
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We identified our study sample as a group of students enrolled at a particular community college campus. The college determined which students met the eligibility criteria as determined by the research team, which totaled 1,169 students. Eligible students were randomly assigned to one of three study groups; students in treatment arm 1 receive case management and access to emergency financial assistance, students in treatment arm 2 are eligible strictly for the emergency financial assistance, and students in the control group receive no services from Stay the Course. The central hypothesis we will test is whether the services provided through this intervention, which directly addresses personal, non-academic and social-institutional barriers, will increase community college persistence and completion rates. Outcomes will be tracked through administrative records for up to six years from time of random assignment.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization conducted by researcher using a computer program.
Randomization Unit
Individual Student
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
1 school
Sample size: planned number of observations
1169 Students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
430 students assigned to treatment arm 1
300 students assigned to treatment arm 2
439 students assigned to control
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Setting the p-value at 0.05 and the power of the test at 80 percent, we should be able to detect an 8.9 percentage point rise in the one-semester persistence rate and a 10.8 percentage point increase in the one-year persistence rate.
IRB Name
University of Notre Dame IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number