Our specific research questions are the following:
1. What is the impact of a high-touch, personalized student coaching program on community college persistence, degree attainment, and future earnings?
2. What is the impact of a low-touch, text message-message based support on community college persistence, degree attainment, and future earnings?
3. How does impact and cost-effectiveness compare between the high- and low-touch support interventions?
To investigate these questions, study subjects are randomly assigned into either the high-touch program, the low-touch program, or the control group, with roughly 1/3 of the sample in each group. Students assigned to the high- or low-touch programs receive access to those respective programs, while
students assigned to the control group retain access to standard “business as usual” services offered by Ivy Tech South Bend-Elkhart, including academic advising and student outreach services. Because the high-touch arm will receive the identical stream of text messages in addition access to a success coach, differences between these two arms can be attributed to the individualized support component, rather
than the information contained in the text messages. Both the high-touch and low-touch arms of the intervention will receive the text messaging program. These messages highlight available resources on the campus and in the community and remind students of important upcoming deadlines throughout the academic year. The messages are sent out using Ivy Tech’s existing text-based communication platform. If a student replies to one of the program messages, and automated reply will refer the student to the college’s general help desk number.
Among the high-touch arm, the specific topics covered by individual success coaches will vary. However, coaches are expected to be ready to discuss personal issues, course planning, career planning, financial aid, and any other obstacles to persistence and graduation. Success coaches will also stress the importance of utilizing the available resources on campus and/or in the community, complementing the informational text messages. Coaches will be flexible in finding ways to adapt to COVID-19, using socially-distanced in-person meetings when possible (and when agreed to by both parties) and virtual meetings otherwise. Because the high-touch arm will receive the identical stream of text messages that the low-touch subjects receive, in addition to the access to a success coach, differences between these two arms can be attributed to the individualized support component rather than the information contained in the text messages.
The components of the intervention will be evaluated via a randomized controlled trial conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland, Dartmouth College, and the University of Notre Dame. Any Ivy Tech South Bend-Elkhart student will be considered eligible for study participation if they:
1) are 18 years of age or older,
2) are enrolling at Ivy Tech South Bend-Elkhart for the first time (excluding any coursework completed at Ivy Tech as a high school student), 3) are entering a degree-seeking program,
4) are currently enrolled in at least six non-remedial credit hours.
While the majority of student characteristics will be collected from college administrative records, all study participants will be encouraged to complete the Short Grit Scale (Duckworth and Quinn, 2009). We will analyze responses to determine which characteristics are predictive of either college outcomes or intervention efficacy.
We will measure both academic and labor market outcomes. We will examine intermediate academic outcome of interest in Ivy Tech institutional data at 2, 4 and 6 semesters after enrollment (GPA, credit accumulation, average credit load, and persistence). We will track our primary academic outcome, degree completion, at 4, 6 and 8 semesters after enrollment using data from the National Student Clearinghouse. We will also measure differences in employment and earnings starting two years after enrollment and then annually thereafter, using both Indiana's Management Performance Hub (MPH) and IRS tax data. The research team is already familiar with the logistical process of collecting data on the key outcomes of this experiment from MPH, the National Student Clearinghouse, and IRS tax data.