Scaling Academic Planning in Community College: A Randomized Controlled Trial


PUBLICATION DATE

November 2016

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Photo of community college students and counselorCommunity college students often do not complete a formal academic plan that lays out the courses they need to achieve their education goals. This can happen, in part, because counseling departments frequently lack the capacity to advise all students.

A new randomized controlled trial from REL West's California Community College Alliance investigated the effectiveness of a technology-based intervention on scheduling and attending a counseling session, completing an academic plan, and re-enrolling in subsequent semesters. Students in the study were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a control group, or one of two intervention groups (workshop counseling sessions and one-on-one counseling sessions). The two interventions included guaranteed access to counseling sessions and targeted "nudges" that were sent through an online student communication system.

This study suggests that both the workshop and one-on-one counseling interventions increased academic plan completion rates by more than 20 percentage points compared with a control group. In addition, exploratory evidence suggests that workshop counseling is as effective as one-on-one counseling in getting students to complete their academic plans and is the most cost-effective method. 

Additional analyses are underway to examine longer-term outcomes, as well as the association between those outcomes and completing an academic plan.