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Student success courses (for 2-year college students)

Higher Education
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2018.  Literature review updated September 2017.
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This topic explores the impact of student success courses and similar freshman seminars at community and technical colleges. Included studies examine the impact of a for-credit course designed to teach first-time students nonacademic skills and increase college readiness. The content of these courses can vary widely but generally includes topics like study skills, time management, academic planning, college orientation, and personal wellness.

Courses excluded from this topic include courses that are not for credit, bundled freshman courses, and courses built into living and learning communities (where all students in the course lived on the same floor or in the same dorm).
The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2017). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $57 Benefits minus costs $281
Participants $443 Benefit to cost ratio $2.00
Others $277 Chance the program will produce
Indirect ($216) benefits greater than the costs 66 %
Total benefits $561
Net program cost ($281)
Benefits minus cost $281
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Benefits from changes to:1 Benefits to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Labor market earnings associated with higher education $209 $459 $266 $0 $935
Costs of higher education ($151) ($16) $11 ($76) ($233)
Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($140) ($140)
Totals $57 $443 $277 ($216) $561
Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $236 2006 Present value of net program costs (in 2017 dollars) ($281)
Comparison costs $0 2016 Cost range (+ or -) 25 %
Costs are based on the per-participant costs reported in an evaluation of the Enhanced Opening Doors program (Weiss et al., 2011), which contains a student success course component. We estimate the per-participant cost as the total budgeted amount for the comparable student success course components, divided by the total number of budgeted classes. Weiss, M., Brock, T., Sommo, C., Rudd, T., & Turner, M.C. (2011). Serving community college students on probation: Four-year findings from Chaffey College's Opening Doors program. New York, NY: MDRC.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Estimated Cumulative Net Benefits Over Time (Non-Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in non-discounted dollars to simplify the “break-even” point from a budgeting perspective. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
College grade point average^ 18 1 86 0.024 1.808 21 n/a n/a n/a 0.024 0.990
Graduate with 2-year degree 18 1 12245 0.026 0.015 21 0.026 0.015 21 0.048 0.001
Persistence into 2nd year 18 1 458 0.007 0.066 19 0.007 0.066 19 0.007 0.912
Persistence within 1st year 18 1 458 0.038 0.066 18 0.038 0.066 18 0.038 0.568

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Glass, J.C., & Garrett, M.S. (1995). Student participation in a college orientation course, retention, and grade point average. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 19(2), 117-132.

Rutschow E.Z., Cullinan, D. & Welbeck, R. (2012). Keeping students on course: An impact study of a student success course at Guildord Technical Community College. New York: MRDC.

Zeidenberg, M., Jenkins, D., & Calcagno, J.C. (2007). Do student success courses actually help community college students succeed? (CCRC Brief Number 36). New York: Community College Research Center.