NCAN Resources Approach Data and Evaluation from Multiple Angles

July 19, 2017

By Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation 

NCAN has heard our member programs loud and clear, and we remain committed to providing resources around data and evaluation that answer key questions around outcomes. The technical assistance, publications, and projects NCAN provides to members help to strengthen their capacity in this area. The past quarter has been particularly busy on this front, and it is worth a look back to see what is new so that both members and the broader college access and success field do not miss out! 

The Benchmarking Project is a collaborative effort between NCAN and our members that demonstrates the impact members are having in closing the enrollment and completion gaps between member-served students and their peers. By the next NCAN Quarterly, we will have results from Round 4 of this important project to share! Using data from previous rounds, NCAN identified programs with exemplary student outcomes. Working with Dr. Ann Coles, senior fellow at uAspire, NCAN released case studies of four member programs to try to identify the practices that make them so successful. The four programs, Act Six, Bottom Line, I Know I Can, and Philadelphia Futures, were each highlighted in a separate report, and an upcoming synthesis will tie together common elements from each of the programs and assess their replication potential. 

Speaking of the Benchmarking Project, we published a sneak preview using Round 4 data to compare the postsecondary completion rates of member-served students against inaugural race and ethnicity benchmarks released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The good news? “Comparing the low-income, first-generation students served by NCAN members against nationally representative groups of students by race and ethnicity shows that NCAN members are making good progress in closing the completion gaps that have run rampant for so long in our country.” The caveat? “The NCAN sample sizes are quite low, which speaks to a need to re-examine these comparisons with future years of data and also to expand college access and success services to more students in general.” 

NCAN has heard clearly and consistently from members that there is a lot of value for them in collaborating together to tackle our field’s complex problems. Last summer, NCAN held a series of “Idea Incubators” across the country that gathered members together to consider four key issues in college access: 

Beyond these briefs, there have been a steady stream of great data-related posts on the NCAN blog. Among the highlights from the last quarter:

  •  On Declines and Verifications: Insights from the Annual Pell Report – The Pell Grant Program Annual Report includes a wide variety of data about this critical tool supporting college access. The NCAN team dug into these tables to find insights most relevant to NCAN members. Our findings? Take declines in FAFSA applications and Pell Grant recipients with a grain of salt, but continue to examine FAFSA verification as a serious obstacle to securing financial aid.

  • Interview: WDQC on the State of Workforce Data for Career Success – As part of NCAN’s ongoing work with Strada Education Network to help members connect college and career success, we reached out to Workforce Data Quality Campaign policy analyst Christina Lindborg Peña about the current state of national- and state-level workforce data and connecting college and career success. What followed was a thoughtful, insightful analysis about how this area has grown and where it needs to grow. Interested in career success? NCAN has even more resources in this area.

  • Data Resource Roundup, Vol. 8 – There are a bevy of data and evaluation-related resources out there, and it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Fortunately, NCAN routinely releases roundups of relevant resources that members can consult to find answers or tools to resolve their most pressing queries. This is volume eight in the series, but be sure to check the blog for future editions!

Beyond these publications, NCAN remains committed to providing members with technical assistance, and they are encouraged to contact Director of Data and Evaluation Bill DeBaun to discuss their specific circumstances or questions. Together, we can continue to develop our field’s collective knowledge in this area and use data and evaluation to improve program performance and scale program capacity!

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