Very Large Community College Last-Dollar Promise Program: Impacts on School-to-College Enrollments




Orona, John

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This dissertation examines the impacts of a last-dollar promise program on high school-to-college enrollments at a very large community college (VLCC) district in Texas. The research intends to add to the current literature on the growing popularity of promise programs at two-year community colleges. Specifically, this quantitative study examines first-time-in-college (FTIC) students at high schools with low school-to-college enrollments. It examines the impacts of a promised scholarship opportunity offered by the VLCC at no cost or low cost. The research questions aim to examine if a VLCC's last-dollar promise scholarship in a metropolitan area increases high school-to-college enrollments. In addition, the demographics of the student sample are reviewed to explore the enrollment effects of the last-dollar scholarship by the observable student groups of gender, prior college credit attainment, and ethnicity.

Difference-in-differences (DD) and event-study (ES) methods were used to analyze the effects of the VLCC promise program on high school-to-college enrollments. DD analysis is a widely used methodology to review policy or program effects by sampling a population before and after implementation (Schwerdt & Woessmann, 2020). Event studies complement the DD methodology results by providing further insight into the treatment effect over time (Li & Katri, 2023).

The findings in this study are similar to other studies that examined promise programs at community colleges as explained in Chapter 3. This investigation showed that the promise scholarship offered by the VLCC increased high school-to-college enrollments at each promise-eligible high school by 26 to 28 students, resulting in a 4% to 5% increase in enrollments at the promise-eligible high school for students attending the VLCC. In perspective, the overall impact showed an increase in the total enrollment rate at the VLCC from all promise-eligible high schools, ranging from 15% to 25% (log). The results suggest that the VLCC had a statistically significant impact on high school-to-college enrollments.

The demographics showed significant increases in enrollments for both genders, with females increasing by 15 more students, while males increased by 13 more students enrolled at the VLCC from promise-eligible high schools compared to schools that did not have the promise-scholarship opportunity. There was an overall 14% (log) increase for females, while males showed a 10% (log) increase in students at the VLCC from all promise-eligible high schools. For FTIC students with no prior earned college credits, the results showed an increase of 27 more student enrollment at from eligible high school, representing a 14% (log) increase at the VLCC from all promise-eligible high schools. In contrast, students with prior college credits failed to show changes in enrollment at the VLCC. African American and White student enrollment saw a statistically significant increase of five and eight more student enrollments at schools with promise scholarships, respectively, while Hispanic students showed 14 more students. This translated to African American students showing an increase in overall enrollments at the VLCC by 21% (log), White students by 23%(log), and Hispanics by 9% (log) from promise-eligible high schools. Groups classified as Asian, and Other failed to show any increases in enrollments at promise-eligible high schools.



community college, last-dollar, place-based scholarship, promise program, VLCC



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies