How Future Connect is Improving College Success Through Comprehensive Advising and Financial Support

August 2017
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Findings from the Future Connect Evaluation

First-generation college students and students from low-income families face financial, social, informational, and academic barriers to college completion because of the high cost of postsecondary education, the complexity of navigating college life, misalignment between high school and college academic expectations, and a general lack of guidance and information.

Future Connect is a comprehensive scholarship and advising support program at Portland Community College (PCC) in Portland, Oregon, that seeks to change the lives of first-generation and low-income students. Future Connect has served 1,631 students between fall 2011 (when it began) and fall 2016. The program provides students with a last-dollar scholarship and other financial resources; a college success coach, who provides ongoing, individualized support and advising; free college and career success courses taught by their coach; and other services to help students achieve their academic and career goals.

This report is the first external evaluation of Future Connect. It examines the program’s impact on college performance, progression, persistence, transfer, and completion. Additionally, qualitative data were collected to understand the perspectives of coaches, participants, and alumni on the effectiveness of the program and to explore how Future Connect might be impacting students’ academic and nonacademic outcomes. The report also provides a more complete understanding of the financial barriers Future Connect students have to overcome to achieve college success, and it offers suggestions for program improvements and next steps.

Our findings suggest Future Connect has large, positive impacts on first-year GPA and credits earned at PCC, persistence to the second year of college, and three-year completion and transfer rates. In particular, the program increases college completion or transfer within three years by 11 percentage points. Further, perspectives on Future Connect are overwhelmingly positive; around 90 percent of students said the program is helping them accomplish their career goals, and many students described how Future Connect has changed or is changing their lives. Students emphasized the importance of the scholarship (saying it enabled them to go to college) and their coach (whom they viewed as a motivator and advocate). The program’s impact on medium- and long-term academic outcomes may be the result of providing students with a community of peers and mentors they can connect with and learn from throughout their time at PCC, thereby building a sense of belonging. Coaches also give students concrete, specific guidance aligned with their goals to help them navigate complex systems while building their confidence to access resources on their own.

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