Improving Utilization of Non-Tuition Supports to Promote Community College Retention and Completion

About the Research Study

Improving Utilization of Non-Tuition Supports to Promote Community College Retention and Completion

About the Research Study

Non-tuition expenses, such as rent, food, transportation, and childcare, make up much of the cost of attending community college, and far too often community college students experiencing small shortfalls in meeting these expenses choose to leave their studies. To address this issue, colleges have begun to offer and expand non-tuition supports, such as food pantries and meal vouchers, emergency aid funds, and referral systems to homelessness service providers. However, these supports are often under-advertised and stigmatized. Consequently, a sizeable utilization gap exists between those students who could benefit from available nontuition supports and those students who take advantage of them.

This project builds on nascent efforts at a large urban community college system at a critical moment that includes high student attrition and low utilization rates of non-tuition supports. A cross-disciplinary research team led by members of the network's Completion Grants team in collaboration with members from the Growth Mindset team and Nudges to the Finish Line team is partnering with Dallas College to implement a text messaging-based intervention that seeks to connect students to non-tuition supports. The text messages in the intervention all provide information about available student supports, but a subset of the messages also incorporate encouraging or empowering language, which has been shown to improve student well-being and program utilization. Unlike conventional electronic outreach, the intervention is intentionally designed to reduce the stigma surrounding some non-tuition supports. The study also sets the stage for additional research examining effect heterogeneity and variability in responsiveness during difficult economic conditions.

Study period: 2020–22 (intervention: 2020–21; evaluation: 2021–22; deliverables: 2021–22)

This project is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305N170020-20A to Temple University.

About the Research Team

Improving Utilization of Non-Tuition Supports to Promote Community College Retention and Completion

About the Research Team

The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University is an action research center transforming higher education into a more effective, equitable, and impactful sector using a powerful combination of applied scientific research, technical assistance to colleges and universities, policy advising with state and federal governments, and strategic communications. Members of the Hope Center's Completion Grants team are partnering with members from the network's Growth Mindset team and Nudges to the Finish Line team as well as with Dallas College to conduct this research project.

Research Team Members

Improving Utilization of Non-Tuition Supports to Promote Community College Retention and Completion

Research Team Members
Christine Baker-Smith Head Shot
Christine Baker-Smith, Ph.D.
Director of Research, National League of Cities
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Japbir Gill Head Shot
Japbir Gill, M.S.Ed.
Senior Research Associate, Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice
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Photo of Sara Goldrick-Rab
Sara Goldrick-Rab, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology and Medicine at Temple University/Founder Hope Center for College, Community and Justice
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Eric Bettinger Head Shot
Eric Bettinger, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics, Stanford University School of Education
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Gregory Walton Head Shot
Gregory Walton, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology and Michael Forman University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, Stanford University
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Shannon Brady Head Shot
Shannon Brady, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Wake Forest University
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