Poverty Lab One Million Degrees

Access the working paper here.

Access the press release here.

Access the qualitative focus group report here.

Community colleges are powerful vehicles for social mobility in the U.S., particularly for students who have not always had an equal opportunity for advancement. First-generation and low-income students, for example, are much more likely to enroll in community colleges than in four-year institutions. Unfortunately, in Chicago, less than one in four community college students graduates within three years.

While education leaders, recognizing the promise of community colleges, have worked to increase enrollment, there is only an emerging body of evidence about how best to support students to increase community college persistence and graduation.

In light of this, the Poverty Lab aims to address the challenge of community college completion by partnering with Chicago nonprofit One Million Degrees (OMD) to evaluate the efficacy of OMD’s holistic approach to improving graduation rates and preparing students for professional success. OMD’s comprehensive program provides financial, academic, personal, and professional support to students.

Through a randomized controlled trial (RCT), the study ultimately seeks to provide causal evidence on whether this bundle of comprehensive services helps students graduate from college and succeed in the workforce.

Early findings from the study’s first two years indicate that OMD substantially increases college enrollment, full-time enrollment, and first-year persistence. In addition to the quantitative RCT study, to gain deeper insight into the program, members of the Poverty Lab team met with more than 100 OMD Scholars, volunteer coaches, and program staff to conduct 21 focus groups that unpack OMD’s four areas of holistic supports (academic, financial, personal, and professional). These qualitative findings provide a rich picture of participants’ experiences in the program, insights into what drives program effectiveness, and formative feedback to inform ongoing program improvement. The evidence this study aims to generate could help nonprofit providers and community colleges nationwide give students the tools they need to succeed in postsecondary education, in the labor market, and in life. 

One Million Degrees Working Paper 2019 One Million Degrees Focus Group Findings Summary