A One-Stop Approach to Supporting the Nonacademic Needs of Community College Students

An Evaluation of Single Stop's Impact in North Carolina

by Lindsay Daugherty, Tiffany Tsai

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Research Questions

  1. What is the overall impact of Single Stop use across the four North Carolina community colleges on persistence and credit accumulation?
  2. Do the impacts of Single Stop vary across sites or colleges?
  3. Do the impacts of Single Stop vary for students with different characteristics?

Community college students in the United States face major challenges with college completion. Low-income students experience particularly high rates of dropout, and there are a wide range of nonacademic issues that act as barriers for low-income students. The goal of Single Stop's College Initiative is to offer a "one-stop shop" that connects students to nonacademic resources that may help them address many of the challenges they face. When college students enter the Single Stop office, staff assess the students' needs and provide them with case management support that aims to connect them with existing governmental, institutional, and community resources through benefits screenings and referrals.

For this report, the authors examined the impact of using Single Stop on postsecondary outcomes for students enrolled between spring 2016 and fall 2016 at four community colleges in North Carolina. The outcomes of interest are persistence (continued enrollment, transfer, or completion), credits attempted, and credits earned. Overall, the findings suggest that Single Stop does have the potential to offer benefits to students. Across the four colleges, there was an increase of 1.1 credits earned by Single Stop users with one year of Single Stop use. The authors did not find an overall statistically significant impact on persistence rates across the four colleges, though there were positive impacts on persistence for independent students. There was wide variation in findings across the four colleges.

Key Findings

Results for persistence were not statistically significant

  • Overall, the findings for one-year persistence among Single Stop users across the four community colleges were small and not statistically significant. However, these pooled results masked substantial variation in results by college.
  • The estimates for the impact of Single Stop at three colleges were positive (though not statistically significant).

Use of Single Stop was associated with an increase in credit accumulation

  • Within one year of Single Stop access, Single Stop users across the four colleges had attempted and earned more than one additional credit over a year, relative to similar students who did not use Single Stop.

Results suggested potentially larger benefits for certain types of students

  • The exploratory analysis for key student subgroups suggests that there were large, statistically significant impacts for students who were older or claimed themselves as independent for purposes of financial aid reporting.
  • Estimates were slightly larger and statistically significant for nonwhite students — but probably not meaningfully different from estimates for white students.

Recommendations

  • Single Stop can offer benefits to students, so it should be considered by colleges as one possible program for supporting the nonacademic needs of students.
  • Given findings that impacts varied widely across colleges, it is important for Single Stop to investigate which aspects of implementation and context are driving these variations and use this information to establish sites and implement the program in ways that ensure more consistently positive impacts.
  • Older, independent students experienced the largest benefits from using Single Stop. For Single Stop sites that are constrained in terms of resources, it may be wise to target services to these students, who are most likely to benefit.
  • Single Stop should continue to emphasize the importance of comprehensive and accurate data collection by Single Stop staff to ensure that institutions and Single Stop have the data needed to assess impacts.

Research conducted by

This study was sponsored by Single Stop USA in partnership with the John M. Belk Endowment and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

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