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Pathways to Financial Resilience: 36-Month Impacts of the Grameen America Program

March 2, 2022

This report summarizes 36-month findings from the evaluation of the Grameen America program, a microfinance institution that provides loans to women with low incomes in the United States who are seeking to start or expand a small business. Its objective is to reduce poverty through the provision of small loans, financial training, and peer support.The Grameen America evaluation used a randomized controlled trial design to explore the mechanisms of program operations and whether the model leads to improved outcomes for borrowers. The evaluation includes an implementation analysis, which examines how the program operates and the experiences of borrowers and program staff, and an impact analysis, which assesses the program's effects on participants' outcomes, including the study's two primary outcomes: overall net income and types of material hardship. Other outcomes include wage-based work and self-employment, wage-based and self-employment earnings and other income, credit scores, savings, assets and remittances, social support, and financial well-being. The implementation analysis includes outcomes from program-tracking data, as well as findings from interviews with borrowers and Grameen America staff, focus groups, and researchers' observations of the program. The impact findings in this report are based on study participants' responses to a 36-month survey and credit report data from a major credit reporting agency. The Grameen America evaluation was funded by the Robin Hood Foundation.

Increasing Community College Graduation Rates with a Proven Model: Three-Year Results from the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) Ohio Demonstration

January 22, 2020

The nation's community colleges play a central role in producing a more educated workforce and promoting social mobility. They serve about 40 percent of all college students and, not surprisingly, they serve a disproportionate number of low-income and underrepresented students. But most students who enter these colleges do not graduate — only about a third of entering students earn a degree or certificate within six years. Among the many programs that have attempted to increase graduation rates, one program stands out. Developed by the City University of New York (CUNY), the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) is a comprehensive program that provides students with up to three years of financial and academic support and other support services. Along with those services and other forms of support comes an obligation to attend full time and participate in essential program services. An experimental evaluation of CUNY ASAP found that the program nearly doubled graduation rates after three years. This report presents findings through three years from a replication of the ASAP model at three community colleges in Ohio. Low-income students were randomly assigned either to a program group, who could participate in their colleges' new programs based closely on ASAP (called the Ohio Programs), or to a control group, who could receive the usual college services. Comparing the two groups' outcomes provides an estimate of the Ohio Programs' effects. 

Integrating Technology and Advising: Studying Enhancements to Colleges’ iPASS Practices

July 29, 2019

Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS) is an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support colleges that seek to incorporate technology into their advising and student services. In iPASS, such technology is intended to increase advising's emphasis on a student's entire college experience, enabling advisers to more easily (1) intervene when students show early warning signs of academic and nonacademic challenges, (2) regularly follow up as students progress through college, (3) refer students to tutoring and other support services when needed, and (4) provide personalized guidance that reflects students' unique needs.To study how technology can support advising redesign, MDRC and the Community College Research Center partnered with three institutions already implementing iPASS: California State University, Fresno; Montgomery County Community College; and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The three institutions increased the emphasis on providing timely support, boosted their use of advising technologies, and used administrative and communication strategies to increase student contact with advisers. The enhancements at all three institutions are being evaluated using a randomized controlled trial research design.This report shows that the enhancements generally produced only a modestly different experience for students in the program group compared with students in the control group, although at one college, the enhancements did substantially increase the number of students who had contact with an adviser. Consequently, it is not surprising that the enhancements have so far had no discernible positive effects on students' academic performance. The findings also highlight the potential for unintended consequences. Before the study, each of the institutions had required that certain groups of students see an adviser before registering for classes in the next semester. Each institution expanded this preregistration requirement to include all students in the study's program groups, but at one institution, the requirement appears to have contributed to a small reduction in earned credits.

Microfinance in the United States: Early Impacts of the Grameen America Program

March 12, 2019

The study, funded by Robin Hood, is the most rigorous, independent, third-party evaluation of group microfinance in the United States, assessing Grameen America's program, a microfinance model that provides small loans to low-income women entrepreneurs in the United States seeking to launch or expand small businesses.

Boosting College Success Among Men of Color

December 1, 2016

This brief catalogues strategies commonly used in interventions at postsecondary educational institutions aimed at improving outcomes for male students of color and charts the way forward for future evaluative work. While young men of color have college and career aspirations similar to those of their white counterparts, a significant gap persists between the two groups' postsecondary educational attainment. In response, colleges around the country have implemented targeted programs offering male students of color a variety of support services, yet few of these initiatives have been evaluated. MDRC has conducted a scan of 82 such programs and will apply lessons from it and other research to a large-scale evaluation of program efficacy that it is currently developing in collaboration with the University System of Georgia. The need for evidence-based approaches that support men of color throughout the educational pipeline is evident, especially at the postsecondary level, where so many male students of color are close to reaching their goals and fulfilling their potential as college graduates.

Encouraging Evidence on a Sector-Focused Advancement Strategy: Two-Year Impacts from the WorkAdvance Demonstration

June 28, 2016

This report summarizes the two-year findings of a rigorous random assignment evaluation of the WorkAdvance model, a sectoral training and advancement initiative. Launched in 2011, WorkAd-vance goes beyond the previous generation of employment programs by introducing demand-driven skills training and a focus on jobs that have career pathways. The model is heavily influenced by the positive findings from the Sectoral Employment Impact Study (SEIS) completed in 2010. A major component of the WorkAdvance model, in common with the programs studied in the SEIS, is formal training offering industry-recognized certifications, reflecting the hypothesis that skills acquisition is necessary for advancement. The model also requires providers to be far more employer-facing than traditional training programs, taking into account multiple employers' changing skill requirements, employee assessment practices, and personnel needs. This report presents the imple-mentation, cost, participation, and two-year economic impacts of WorkAdvance. The economic results are based on unemployment insurance earnings records and a second-year follow-up survey.The WorkAdvance program operations and evaluation are funded through the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a public-private partnership administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. This SIF project is led by the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City and the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity in collaboration with MDRC.Key Findings*All providers translated the WorkAdvance model into a set of concrete services, but it took time— more than a year for some components and providers -- and a substantial amount of tech-nical assistance and support. As a result, at some sites, later study enrollees were more likely than earlier ones to experience a fully implemented and "mature" WorkAdvance program.*Overall, WorkAdvance resulted in very large increases in participation in every category of services, as well as in training completion and credential acquisition, compared with what would have happened in the absence of the program. Expenditures for the operation of WorkAdvance fell between $5,200 and $6,700 per participant at the four providers delivering the program.*WorkAdvance providers increased earnings, with variation in results that closely matched the providers' experience in running sector-based programs and the extent to which the services they offered were demand driven. The most experienced sectoral provider, Per Scholas, had large and consistent impacts on both primary and secondary outcomes. Madison Strategies Group and Towards Employment, providers new to sectoral training, had promising but less consistent results that grew stronger for later enrollees. One provider, St. Nicks Alliance, did not produce positive impacts. The results did not differ dramatically across subgroups, though en-couragingly, WorkAdvance was able to increase earnings among the long-term unemployed.The evaluation as a whole provides important information for workforce development providers interested in pursuing a sector strategy. The analysis considers the role played by providers' sector-specific training and preparation and the role played by the nature of the sectors themselves. Future priorities that emerge from the results are (1) understanding how to help the more disadvantaged access the programs and (2) learning how to build service capacity, given how complex the model is to run.

What Works for Disconnected Young People: A Scan of the Evidence

February 1, 2016

The purpose was to conduct a scan of the current state of the evidence regarding what works in helping disconnected young people, defined as the population of young people ages 16 to 24 who are not connected to work or school. To prepare the paper, MDRC conducted a literature review of relevant policies and programs. The literature reviewed included writing on impact, quasiexperimental, and implementation studies. MDRC also conducted reviews of numerous websites to learn about current policy trends and evaluations in process. To supplement what was learned from written materials, MDRC interviewed a number of practitioners in the field, including representatives from foundations, coalitions, and research organizations.

Engaging Disconnected Young People in Education and Work

October 1, 2015

Project Rise served 18- to 24-year-olds who lacked a high school diploma or the equivalent and had been out of school, out of work, and not in any type of education or training program for at least six months. After enrolling as part of a group (or cohort) of 25 to 30 young people, Project Rise participants were to engage in a 12-month sequence of activities centered on case management, classroom education focused mostly on preparation for a high school equivalency certificate, and a paid part-time internship that was conditional on adequate attendance in the educational component. After the internship, participants were expected to enter unsubsidized employment, postsecondary education, or both. The program was operated by three organizations in New York City; one in Newark, New Jersey; and one in Kansas City, Missouri.

Gateway to College: Lessons from Implementing a Rigorous Academic Program for At-Risk Young People

September 1, 2015

Despite efforts to improve the high school graduation rate in the United States, an estimated 7,200 students drop out of high school every day -- a staggering 1.3 million every year. Further, a recent report by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University projects that by 2020, nearly 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require at least some college education, out of reach for those who are unable to earn a high school diploma. Much more comprehensive alternative education programs are needed that put dropouts and students at risk of dropping out on a path to earn high school diplomas while also providing them with the academic skills and support necessary to be successful in their postsecondary pursuits.

Becoming Adults: One-Year Impact Findings from the Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation

May 1, 2015

Young adults with histories of foster care or juvenile justice custody experience poor outcomes across a number of domains, on average, relative to their peers. While government funding for services targeting these groups of young people has increased in recent years, research on the effectiveness of such services is limited, and few of the programs that have been rigorously tested have been found to improve outcomes. The Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation is testing whether the Transitional Living program, operated by the social service organization Youth Villages, makes a difference in the lives of young people with histories of foster care or juvenile justice custody. The program, which was renamed "YVLifeSet" in April 2015, is intended to help these young people make a successful transition to adulthood by providing intensive, individualized, and clinically focused case management, support, and counseling.

New Pathways to Careers and College: Examples, Evidence, and Prospects

April 1, 2015

The debate about high school reform is increasingly focused on the role of career-technical education (CTE) in helping to prepare all students for success in both postsecondary education and the workforce. The stand-alone vocational courses into which high school students with lower academic achievement were often channeled are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, programs that merge CTE, rigorous academic coursework, and career exploration opportunities, while creating clear pathways through high school, college, and beyond, are gaining momentum. This report describes some of the most prominent of these ?pathway? models, identifies localities where the approach has gained the most traction, discusses the underlying principles that characterize the most promising programs, and briefly presents the evidence of their potential to make a difference. The report concludes with a set of recommendations for future investment to strengthen and scale such programs.

In Search of a Match: A Guide for Helping Students Make Informed College Choices

March 31, 2015

This guide is designed for counselors, teachers, and advisers who work with high school students from low-income families and students who are the first in their families to pursue a college education. It offers strategies for helping these students identify, consider, and enroll in "match" colleges -- that is, selective colleges that are a good fit for students based on their academic profiles, financial considerations, and personal needs. Many of the suggestions in this guide are based on insights and lessons learned from the College Match Program, a pilot program that MDRC codeveloped with several partners and implemented in Chicago and New York City to address the problem of "undermatching," or what happens when capable high school students enroll in colleges for which they are academically overqualified or do not apply to college at all. The key lessons of the College Match Program, which are reflected in this guide, are that students are willing to apply to selective colleges when:* They learn about the range of options available to them.* They engage in the planning process early enough to meet college and financial aid deadlines.* They receive guidance, support, and encouragement at all stages.Informed by those key lessons, the guide tracks the many steps in the college search, application, and selection process, suggesting ways to incorporate a match focus at each stage: creating a match culture, identifying match colleges, applying to match colleges, assessing the costs of various college options, selecting a college, and enrolling in college. Because many students question their ability to succeed academically or fit in socially at a selective college, and because they may hesitate to enroll even when they receive good advice and encouragement, the guide offers tips and strategies to help students build the confidence they need to pursue the best college education available to them. Each section also suggests tools and resources in the form of websites and printed materials that counselors, advisers, and students can use, as well as case studies to illustrate the experiences of College Match participants throughout the process.