News: Data, Research & Evaluation

Which Services Matter Most? Series: Findings from NCAN's Benchmarking Project

Tuesday, January 23, 2018  
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By Richard Livingstone, Janette Martinez, Callie McLean, Catherine Sangster, and Maxwell Tingle

As Master’s Candidates in the Public Administration program at the George Washington University, our team worked with the National College Access Network (NCAN) to analyze a 300,000-student dataset to determine which college access services and service pairs offered by NCAN members correlate with an increased likelihood of postsecondary enrollment and/or completion for the students receiving NCAN-member services. Our analysis appears in "NCAN Benchmarking Breakdown: Which Services Matter Most?", which we presented late last year (recording / slides). We broke down our analysis into four parts:

  1. Enrollment & Completion Snapshot: A snapshot of the sample students’ enrollment and completion statuses;
  2. Service Effectiveness: Determining service effectiveness for recipients of NCAN-member services;
  3. Student-Level Comparison: Examining whether service effectiveness varies across different student demographics; 
  4. Service Pattern Identification: Identifying service pairings and their subsequent correlation with enrollment and completion.

Our report is an addition to NCAN’s Benchmarking Project and is intended to inform the NCAN membership about which services matter the most in increasing college access for underrepresented students. To briefly highlight our findings for each of the four analysis projects:

  1. Students receiving services from NCAN-member organizations have an enrollment rate above the national average and a completion rate below the national average, but above the average of other low-income students.

  2. Students receiving FAFSA assistance and test preparation services in their service mix experience a statistically significant higher likelihood of enrolling in college. Students receiving postsecondary success services and a scholarship in their service mix experience a statistically significant higher likelihood of completing a credential, which includes a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree.

  3. Students across different demographic groups experience different likelihoods of enrolling/completing when they receive FAFSA assistance, test preparation, postsecondary success services, and scholarships in their service mix. 

  4. No combination of two services correlates with a higher likelihood of enrolling in college and/or completing a credential - a majority of the students in the sample receive five or more services.

NCAN members should include FAFSA assistance, test preparation, and postsecondary success services (and scholarships as resources allow) in their service mix and increase their focus on college success. Our findings indicate that students receiving FAFSA assistance and test preparation in their service mix have a higher likelihood of enrolling, and students receiving postsecondary success services and scholarships in their service mix have a higher likelihood of completing. Services should be included in a mix, as we found no two-service silver bullet. 

These findings hold true across demographic groups and when compared to other NCAN-member services, although the degree of each service's effectiveness varies across demographic groups. 

Additionally, our findings suggest an opportunity for NCAN members to expand their goals to include improving college success rates, as the completion rate for students receiving NCAN-member services is below the national average (though still well above average low-income high school college completion). 

Our findings and recommendations can help NCAN and its membership work toward their collective goal of increasing college access and completion for underrepresented students.