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Detroit Promise Path Boosts Full-Time Enrollment, Persistence, and Credit Accumulation by Detroit Community College Students

The first-year effects are among the largest seen in higher ed evaluation research
(Detroit, April 24, 2019) — A study conducted by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research firm, shows that the Detroit Promise Path increases the likelihood that students will enroll full time, persist in school, attend summer sessions, and earn more credits. The Detroit Promise Path is a program put in place by the Detroit Regional Chamber in partnership with MDRC that adds evidence-based college support services to the promise scholarship model. The study was released at the Michigan College Promise Symposium, a gathering of business, education and government leaders.

The Detroit Promise Path provides students with campus coaches and financial stipends to help them both successfully enroll in college and persist beyond the first semester. Results from MDRC’s rigorous random assignment evaluation show that Detroit Promise Path has particularly strong effects in the first year. For example:

  • Student participants were 8.1 percentage points more likely to enroll in their second semester than students who received the scholarship but did not participate in the Path program (62.7% vs. 54.6%) — and 10.3 percentage points more likely to enroll full time (32.9% vs. 22.6%).
  •  Student participants were nearly three times more likely to enroll in the summer session their first year (20.5% vs. 7.0%). Research has shown that students who enroll in summer courses are more likely to persist and graduate.
  • Perhaps most notably, students were nearly twice as likely to complete 24 or more credits their first year (10.8% vs. 5.6%), an important marker of being on a successful path to completion.
  • Students reported positive experiences in the program, especially in their relationships with their coaches.

“The effects of the Detroit Promise Path on persistence and full-time enrollment in the second semester are among the largest we’ve seen in rigorous tests of higher education interventions,” said Alexander Mayer, deputy director of postsecondary education at MDRC, who presented the results at the Michigan College Promise Symposium. “It’s good news for the larger College Promise field, and we look forward to learning whether these results persist and eventually translate into higher graduation rates for Detroit Promise Path students overall.”

Although it is too early to reach a conclusion about the effects in the second year of the study, the early findings are encouraging. Based on data from the first group of enrollees in Detroit Promise Path, second-year findings are positive, but not all are statistically significant and the effect on credits earned is smaller.

“Providing Detroit high schools students access to college is one part of a solution to ensuring student success. It is equally important to understand and address the barriers students in order to help them persist in college,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “The MDRC results on the program are promising, and we look forward to continuing to remove barriers to education for Detroiters.”

“We at the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF) are thrilled at the results of the evaluation of the Detroit Promise Program. Our goal from the beginning is to ensure that every student has the opportunity for a postsecondary education and for the support needed for success. Working with our partner funders like the Kellogg Foundation and others, we’re pleased their investment has yielded this kind of success and that the program has quickly become a national model,” said Peter Remington, president of Michigan Education Excellence Foundation.

“We know that access to quality higher education is a critical pathway for economic mobility. The Detroit Promise Path program demonstrates that an evidence-based approach can lead to improved student outcomes, and open more opportunities for more Americans,” said Michele Jolin, CEO, and co-founder of Results for America, a national nonprofit that helps decision-makers at all levels of government harness the power of evidence and data to solve problems.

The study was unveiled and discussed during the National College Promise Symposium at the Detroit Regional Chamber in partnership with the College Promise Campaign, The Kresge Foundation and United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

“Michigan is a leader in college promise programs, and it again has provided valuable insights. Our national partners will be examining this research to better understand how we can all create more support that can bolster student persistence and completion. Closing the guidance gap is key to creating a college-going culture,” says Martha Kanter, executive director, College Promise Campaign. The nonprofit, nonpartisan campaign reports that supporters have started over 300 college promise programs in 44 states, with over 20 states having statewide promise programs.

“MDRC’s analysis of the Detroit Promise Path provides critical proof points demonstrating that well-targeted student supports alongside reduced financial barriers are at the heart of improving student outcomes,” said Bill Moses, managing director of The Kresge Foundation’s Education Program. “Student success is central to our mission at Kresge and we are proud to support research that illuminates effective methods of helping more students from low-income households and students of color succeed in college.”

“A postsecondary degree can be a game changer for young people and their families,” said Dr. Darienne Driver Hudson, president and CEO, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “It is critical that our high-school-focused investments in College and Career Pathways serve as a bridge to postsecondary opportunities. As this report demonstrates, access to wraparound supports are integral to ensuring children are equipped to compete in today’s global economy.”

The new report, A Path from Access to Success: Interim Findings from the Detroit Promise Path Evaluation, is available on MDRC’s website. MDRC also released a report from its College Promise Success Initiative describing ways in which promise programs have designed and implemented similar student support components to boost student success. The report points to several tools on MDRC’s website that promise programs around the nation can use to improve their own offerings to students.

The Detroit Promise Path program and evaluation are primarily funded by the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation, with additional support from W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Ford Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and The Kresge Foundation. The Detroit Promise Path evaluation is affiliated with MDRC’s College Promise Success Initiative, which is funded by Ascendium Education Group.

View or download the full study.

Contacts:
• John Hutchins, MDRC, 212-340-8604, john.hutchins@mdrc.org
• Kelly Weatherwax, Detroit Regional Chamber, 313-596-0360, kweatherwax@detroitchamber.com