Promoting College Completion Through Leadership Among Underrepresented Urban College Students: A Theory of Change and Evaluation of College Retention Outcomes for the Act Six Leadership and Scholarship Initiative
Herron, Timothy J.
MetadataShow full item record
The Act Six Leadership and Scholarship Initiative is a leadership development and college retention and success program developed by the Northwest Leadership Foundation that provides intensive cohort-based training and support, along with full-tuition, full-need scholarships, to underrepresented urban college students to attend religiously affiliated liberal arts colleges across the Pacific Northwest. Act Six has produced notably high levels of persistence and graduation when compared to national and local data for students with similar demographic characteristics. This dissertation presents a comprehensive literature-based theory of change that proposes how and why the many interventions of Act Six work together to affect the desired outcomes of the program. It then evaluates the collective impact of these interventions on participants' college persistence and graduation by comparing outcomes for Act Six participants with participants in a comparison program. The Washington State Achievers (WSA) scholarship program, developed by the College Success Foundation, provides broad but less intensive financial and programmatic support to more than 5,000 diverse, low-income students across Washington State. Because randomized assignment is not possible in evaluating the effects of the Act Six program, propensity score matching techniques are utilized to identify a matched sample of WSA participants who on average are nearly identical to Act Six participants on a set of 10 covariates believed to influence college persistence. After matching, the study finds that Act Six participation has a significant effect on persistence and four-year graduation, with Act Six participants nearly 60% less likely to depart and six times more likely to graduate on time from their first college compared to similar WSA participants, after controlling for all covariates. By ruling out the influence of selection bias from the observed covariates, the study contributes rigorous new evidence that, beyond the selection process and full scholarship, the collective interventions articulated in the Act Six theory of change contribute to significant, substantially higher persistence and graduation outcomes for program participants. These findings invite further investigation of the theory and its implications for college success practices that target underrepresented students and communities.
- Education - Seattle