Effectiveness Of Student Support Services (TRiO) Programs at California Community Colleges

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Dr. Mark Sanchez is currently the Dean of Student Services, Counseling at Fresno City College. Prior to his tenure at Fresno City College, Dr. Sanchez was the Director of Student Support Services Programs at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, CA. Dr. Sanchez’ education includes a Doctorate in Education from California State University, Fresno; Master’s in Education Administration from California State University, Fresno; Bachelor’s in Sociology from Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, CA.

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Dr. Mark Sanchez, Dean of Student Services, Counseling at Fresno City College
Abstract: 

Historically, first-generation, low-income, and students with disabilities have had very high attrition rates at California Community Colleges and institutions of higher education in general.  According to research, low-income, first-generation college students were nearly four times more likely to leave higher education after the first year than students who had neither of these risk factors. The purpose of this study showcased in this article was to determine whether students who participated in Student Support Services (TRiO) programs at two California community colleges were more likely to persist and complete an educational goal compared to their non-program participant counterparts. TRiO programs, funded by the United States Department of Education,  are designed to assist first-generation college going, low-income, and students with disabilities  to persist towards an educational goal, be it, the completion an AA degree , transfer to a four-year university, and/or completion of a certificate program.   

Article: 

Historically, first-generation, low-income, and students with disabilities have had very high attrition rates at California Community Colleges and institutions of higher education in general. According to research, low-income, first-generation college students were nearly four times more likely to leave higher education after the first year than students who had neither of these risk factors. Furthermore, six years later, nearly one-half (43%) of low-income, first-generation college students had left college without earning degrees (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2004).

Student Support Services (TRiO) programs are designed to assist first-generation college going, low-income, and students with disabilities with gaining the academic and self-advocacy skills necessary to persist towards an educational goal, two-year degree completion, transfer to a four-year university, and/or completion of a certificate program. Services provided to student program participants included: academic counseling, financial assistance, transfer preparation, study skills, test-taking strategies, major and career exploration, cultural activities, and peer academic tutoring.

Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to determine whether students who participated in Student Support Services (TRiO) programs at the California community colleges are more likely to persist and complete an educational goal compared to their non-program participant counterparts.

Significance of the Study
A significant body of research has examined the reasons behind high minority student collegiate attrition. All of this work has contributed to an understanding of the unique challenges minority, low-income and first-generation college student’s face in the difficult transition to the often new culture that is the college experience.

Study Methodology
This study employed a non-experimental research design intended to gather longitudinal and student-level data for students generally enrolled in the community college as well as students enrolled in a student support services (TRiO) program from fall 2004-spring 2005 until fall 2009 at two California community colleges. A total of 7,015 college student records were gathered which included 121 Student Support Services (TRiO) program participants’ student records.

Summary of Findings
Table 1
Total Number of Student Cases by Service & Non-Service Group and College

TRiO Services Received
College Yes No
N % N %
Evergreen Valley College 60 49.6 2317 33.6
Fresno City College 61 50.4 4577 66.4
Total 121 100.0 6894 100.0

Table 1 reports the number of Student Support Services (TRiO) program participants and general college student populations from first-generation college going, low-income, and student with disability backgrounds for academic year 2004-2005.

Table 2
Frequency and Percent of Persistence by College

Evergreen Valley College Fresno City College
Persisted Received Did Not Received Did Not
TRIO Receive TRiO Receive
Services Services Services Services
N % N % N % N %

Yes 6 10.0 0 0 5 8.2 926 20.2

No 20 33.3 2021 87.4 23 37.7 3025 66.1

Other Educational Goal
34 56.7 292 12.6 33 54.1 626 13.7

Total 60 100.0 2313 100.0 61 100.0 4577 100.0

Table 2 summarizes the frequency and percentage of student persistence by college and for students who did and did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services.

It appears from data on persistence in Table 2, that students who enrolled and participated in Student Support (TRiO) services had a significantly higher rate of persistence than general college population students who did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services (Evergreen Valley College X²=333.70, df=2, p<.001; Fresno City College X²= 80.947, df=2, p<.001).

Table 3
Frequency and Percent of Certificate of Completion by College
Evergreen Valley College Fresno City College
Certificate of Received Did Not Receive Received Did Not Receive
TRiO TRiO
Services Services Services S ervices
Completion
or
Other Educational
Goal
N % N % N % N %

Yes 1 1.7 24 1.0 10 16.4 173 3.8

No 20 33.3 2021 87.4 23 37.7 3025 66.1

Other Educational Goal
39 65.0 268 11.6 28 45.9 1379 30.1

Total 60 100.0 2313 100.0 61 100.0 4577 100.0

Table 3 summarizes the frequency and percentage of certificate of completion by college and for those who did and did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services.

It appears from data on certificate of completion rates in Table 3, that students who enrolled and participated in Student Support (TRiO) services at Fresno City College had a significantly higher rate of obtainment of certificates of completion than general college population students who did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services. The data suggests there was significance for certificate of completion rates for those who received Student Support (TRiO) services compared to those who did not at Evergreen Valley College (Evergreen Valley College X²=149.00, df=2, p<.001; Fresno City College X²=36.592, df=2, p<.001).

Table 4
Frequency and Percent of Transfer to Four Year University by College

Evergreen Valley College Fresno City College
Transfer to a Four Received Did Not Received Did Not
Year University or TRiO Receive TRiO Receive
Other Educational Services Services Services Services

Goal N % N % N % N %

Yes 17 28.3 214 9.3 15 24.6 206 4.5

No 20 33.3 2021 87.4 28 45.9 3212 70.2

Other Educational Goal
23 38.3 78 3.4 18 29.5 1159 25.3

Total 60 100.0 2313 100.0 61 100.0 4577 100.0

Table 4 summarizes the frequency and percentage of student transfer to a four-year university by college and for those who did and did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services.

It appears based on data on transfer in Table 4, students who enrolled and participated in Student Support (TRiO) services had a significantly higher rate of transfer to a four-year university compared to the general college population of students who did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services (Evergreen Valley College X²=209.70, df=2, p<.001; Fresno City College X²=56.480, df=2, p<.001).

Table 5
Means for GPA by College

Campus Received TRiO Services Did Not Receive Services Total
M SD N M SD N M SD N

Evergreen 3.01 .999 60 1.08 1.33 2317 1.13 1.36 2377
Valley College
Fresno City 2.42 1.22 61 1.62 1.26 4482 1.64 1.27 4543
College

Group Total 2.71 1.15 121 1.44 1.31 6799 1.46 1.32 6920

According to the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), there was a statistically significant difference in GPA for those who received services and those who did not by college (F=133.19, df=1; 6916, p<.001, eta²=.019) among those who received TRiO services (M=2.71) and those who did not receive TRiO services (M=1.44). The partial eta squared was .019, which reported a small effect size.

There was a significant interaction in cumulative GPA by service and college (F=23.14, df=1; 6916, p<.001, eta²=.003). For those who received Student Support (TRiO) services at Evergreen Valley College (M=3.01) and Fresno City College (M=2.42). For those who did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services at Evergreen Valley College (M=1.08) and Fresno City College (M=1.62).

Table 6
Total Number of Student Cases by Service & Non-Service Group and College by Gender and Two Year Degree that Completed a Two Year Degree or Other Educational Goal

Evergreen Valley College Fresno City College
Completed Two Year Received Did Not Received Did Not Degree or TRiO Receive TRiO Receive
Other Educational Services Services Services Services

Goal N % N % N % N %
Male
Completed 5 29.4 33 3.4 6 19.4 109 5.0
Did Not Complete 8 47.1 866 89.3 14 45.2 1508 68.8
Other Education Goal 4 23.5 71 7.3 11 35.5 576 26.3

Female
Completed 23 53.5 95 7.2 11 36.7 171 7.2
Did Not Complete 12 27.9 1139 85.9 9 30.0 1510 63.7
Other Education Goa l8 18.6 92 6.9 10 33.3 690 29.1

Campus Total 60 100.0 2296 100.0 61 100.0 2371 100.0

Table 6 reports the number of students by gender and college who received Student Support (TRiO) services or did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services and whether they completed a two-year degree or had an educational goal of “other.”

Based on the data in Table 6, the results suggests that both Males and Females who received Student Support (TRiO) services at Evergreen Valley College and Fresno City College, had a significantly higher two-year degree attainment rate compared to Males and Females who did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services at the colleges (X²=204.50, df=2, p<.001).

Table 7
Total Number of Student Cases by Service & Non-Service Group and College by Gender and Certificate

Evergreen Valley College Fresno City College
Certificate or Received Did Not Received Did Not
Other TRiO Receive TRiO Receive
Educational Goal Services Services Services Services

N % N % N % N %
Male
Completed 0 0.0 9 .9 7 22.6 88 4.0
Did Not Complete 8 47.1 866 89.3 14 45.2 1508 68.8
Other Education Goal 9 52.9 95 9.8 10 32.3 597 27.2

Female
Completed 1 2.3 15 1.1 3 10.0 82 3.5
Did Not Complete 12 27.9 1139 85.9 9 30.0 1510 63.7
Other Education Goal 30 69.8 172 13.0 18 60.0 779 32.9

Campus Total 60 100.0 1326 100.0 61 100.0 2371 100.0

Table 7 reports the number of students by gender and college who received Student Support (TRiO) services or did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services and whether they completed a Certificate or had an educational goal of other.

Based on the data in Table 7, the data suggests Males and Females who received Student Support (TRiO) services at Fresno City College and Evergreen Valley College had a significantly higher Certificate attainment rate compared to Males and Females at both colleges who did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services (X²=87.012, df=2, p<.001).

Summary of Findings
Based on the data analysis of this study, data on student persistence suggested that students who enrolled and participated in Student Support (TRiO) services at Evergreen Valley College and Fresno City College had a higher rate of persistence than general college population students who did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services. Furthermore, the data suggested that students who enrolled and participated in Student Support (TRiO) services at both colleges had a higher rate of two-year degree completion than their non-program counterparts. Regarding certificate of completion rates, students who enrolled and participated in Student Support (TRiO) services at Evergreen Valley College and Fresno City College were more likely to complete a certificate program compared to those students who did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services at both colleges. Finally, the data suggested that students who received Student Support (TRiO) services at both Evergreen Valley College and Fresno City College had a higher rate of transfer to a four-year university compared to those students who did not receive Student Support (TRiO) services.
The overall data analysis suggested that Student Support (TRiO) program services had a positive effect on increasing student’s two-year degree attainment, persistence to completion of an educational goal, certificate completion, and transfer to four-year University rates compared to those students who do not receive Student Support (TRiO) program services.

Conclusion
Low-income and first-generation college student failure suggested that the problem is as much the result of experiences these students have during college as it is attributable to the experiences they have before they enroll. Furthermore, low-income, and first-generation students are less likely to be engaged in the academic and social experiences that foster success in college, such as studying in groups, interacting with faculty and other students, participating in extracurricular activities, and using support services. Lower levels of academic and social integration among this population are inextricably linked to finances and financial assistance.
Based on the findings of this study, there is clear evidence that a set of prescriptive student support services that included; financial assistance, academic counseling, peer tutoring, grant aid linked to academic achievement, cultural activities, personal counseling, and university tours assists students with the skills necessary for academic goal completion.

Finally, it is critical for institutions to ensure they have a wide-range of cultural activities on campus to develop a culture of belonging for all students. The ability for institutions to assist students in transitioning into the college culture and identifying expectations for them while they are enrolled will increase a student’s ability to acclimate to the institution, thus creating an environment by which the students may have a greater chance in completing their educational goals.