Study Shows Developmental Summer Bridge Programs Help

The first study into effectiveness of these programs showed an increased passrate for math and writing courses, but alone they were ineffective longterm.

A two year random assignment study of ‘developmental summer bridge’ programs in Texas has found that students enrolled in the programs have an increased chance of passing college level math and writing in their first 18 months of college compared to those who do not attend such bridge programs. The students in the program, who were tested below college level prior to participation, were 7% more likely to pass college level math and 5% more likely to pass college level writing.

The NCPR study is the first to use a random assignment design to provide experimental evidence that these programs contribute to greater success early in students’ college careers, a period when they are most likely to drop out.

The study also found, however, that the effects were not persistent and faded after two years with no effect on credit accumulation. Of additional note is that four to five week bridge programs were not alone sufficient to improve long term student outcomes. Sustained benefits may come from layering such programs with additional interventions.

The study, from the National Center for Postsecondary Research and in collaboration with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, tracked 1300 mostly Hispanic students over two years who participated in summer bridge programs at two four-year and six community colleges in Texas.

The developmental summer bridge programs studied ranged in length from four to five weeks and contained an intensive six hours a day of instruction as well as academic tutoring and college advising.

Colleges across the country have been seeking ways to help students move more quickly out of remediation and into college-level classes: nationally, six out of ten students entering community college need at least one remedial class, and only 28% of these students go on to complete a college degree or credential.

One in eight four year colleges now offer bridge programs showing that these programs have become a popular way of addressing the problem of students not being ready for college. However until this study there had been no rigorous investigation of the effectiveness of developmental summer bridge programs.

The National Center for Postsecondary Research is housed at the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University and operated in collaboration with MDRC, the Curry School of Education at University of Virginia, and a Harvard University professor. It was established in 2006 with a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences. NCPR measures the effectiveness of programs which are designed to help students make the transition to college.

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