The Role of Community College Interventions in Reducing Racial Inequality in Students’ Academic Progress: A Synthesis of 20 Years of MDRC’s RCTs

Do community college interventions reduce inequality in academic outcomes across racial groups?

Black and Hispanic youth disproportionately enroll in community college yet are far less likely to persist and graduate than their White peers. Community colleges have implemented many interventions to address the systemic, institutional, and student-level barriers that can impede students’ progress. Weiss and colleagues will capitalize on MDRC’s database of randomized controlled trials of postsecondary education interventions to examine whether the interventions are effective at closing racial gaps in student outcomes, as well as which components are associated with closing gaps. The team will conduct a meta-analysis of rigorous studies of community college interventions to reduce racial inequalities in postsecondary education outcomes. In addition, they will use random effects meta-analytic models to estimate: the average effect of 39 interventions on racial inequalities in student outcomes, variation in these interventions’ effects on racial inequalities, and the relationship between intervention components and intervention effects on racial inequalities. If community college interventions are more effective for Black and Hispanic students than for White students—or if they are broadly effective and are targeted to Black and Hispanic students—they may be an important tool in reducing racial inequality in postsecondary education outcomes. Findings could shed light on how practitioners, institutional leaders, and policymakers can support improved higher education outcomes for Black and Hispanic students.

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