Putting Data to Work to Re-Engage Young Adults Who Experienced Pandemic-Related Educational Disruptions

Historically, more than a quarter of first-time students at Tennessee community colleges do not persist past their first semester, and half do not persist beyond their first year. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these persistence challenges at community colleges, and persistence rates were lowest for academically underprepared students.

To support the persistence of young adult students whose educational pathways were disrupted by COVID-19, this project will: 

  • Examine the impact of COVID-19 on the persistence and credit attainment of Tennessee community college students from the high school graduating classes of 2020 to 2022 compared to students from four pre-pandemic graduating classes, including an analysis of differences in student outcomes by race, socioeconomic status, and academic preparation.
  • Identify employment rates and wage returns for graduates of career-focused associate and sub-associate certificate programs in six in-demand occupational areas compared to graduates of general associate degree programs designed to transfer to a university.
  • Implement and test a course coaching model that embeds success coaches into corequisite learning support courses to improve the persistence of academically underprepared community college students.

This project is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305S220005 to the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Lead Researchers

Russ Deaton is the executive vice chancellor for policy and strategy at TBR—The College System of Tennessee where he provides leadership to the offices of Academic Affairs, Student Success, Organizational Effectiveness, and Research and Data. He can be reached at russ.deaton@tbr.edu.

Amy Moreland is the assistant vice chancellor of policy and strategy at TBR—The College System of Tennessee. Her work includes research and policy analysis about enrollment and student success at Tennessee’s 38 community and technical colleges. She can be reached at amy.moreland@tbr.edu.

Ben Castleman is the Newton and Rita Meyers Associate Professor in the Economics of Education at the University of Virginia and the founder and director of the Nudge4 Solutions Lab at the University of Virginia. His research develops and rigorously tests scalable solutions in education and public policy by leveraging behavioral economics and data science strategies in the context of research-policy partnerships. He can be reached at blc4q@virginia.edu.

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