- A student success program focusing on intensive academic and financial support increased full-time enrollment, persistence and credit attainment at Westchester Community College, mimicking the success of a similar program started by the City University of New York.
- In their first semester, students in Westchester’s Viking ROADS program achieved a full-time enrollment rate that was 11.7 percentage points higher than peers not in the program, according to a randomized trial conducted by education and policy research firm MDRC.
- The next semester, students in the program enrolled at an even higher rate — 19.9 percentage points above nonparticipants. In the program's third semester, participants' full-time enrollment rate dropped to 14.7 percentage points above nonparticipants, which was still above the program's starting point.
Viking ROADS, designed to help students get their associate degree in three years or less, is based on CUNY's 15-year-old Accelerated Study in Associate Programs. ASAP, an oft-cited student success story in higher education, nearly doubled the three-year graduation rate for community college remedial students, according to a 2015 MDRC study.
Westchester, part of the State University of New York system, sought to duplicate that success when creating Viking ROADS in 2018, according to Belinda Miles, the institution’s president.
"Replicating ASAP was not a minor adjustment or quick thing," Miles told a news conference Thursday.
Participants were assigned a dedicated case manager and received academic and personal support. The college also provided them with financial support, through tuition aid, textbook assistance and monthly transportation stipends. And CUNY provided technical assistance, which Miles called essential.
Westchester got support for the program through an anonymous donor and philanthropy Arnold Ventures, but did not disclose amounts. Arnold Ventures recently donated $1 million to the program, according to the college’s website.
So far, Viking ROADS is on track to recapture ASAP's success, said Stanley Dai, technical research analyst at MDRC. The program is seeing results in line with ASAP's early experiences, Dai said.
In addition to boosting full-time enrollment rates, Viking ROADS also raised the number of cumulative credits students earned, according to the study.
First-semester Viking ROADS students earned an average of 1.1 more credits than nonparticipants. By the second semester, students in the program were three credits ahead.
"You could think of this as being one class closer to graduation, to degree attainment," Dai said.
The study enrolled 574 participants across three cohorts — fall 2019, fall 2020, and spring 2021. Half enrolled prior to the pandemic, and half enrolled after. About half of participating students were employed, and roughly 10% worked full time. A majority of the students, 78%, were under the age of 20.