The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) awarded STEM Starter Academy (SSA) grants to each of the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts during FY14 and renewed those awards for FY15 and FY16. The SSA initiative is intended to support community colleges’ efforts to inform, engage, recruit, retain, and graduate significantly more students and enhance their success in STEM pathway programs leading to job placements or 4-year college transfer. SSA sites have worked to address support service and activity gaps through extension of current programs, capacity building, or collaboration across campuses and to articulate these practices with current systems of student support. The UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI) is working with DHE to evaluate the SSA initiative, and this report presents findings from Year 2.
An important Year 2 development was the specification of a program model for SSA, developed by DHEin collaboration with SSA sites. UMDI and DHE have collaborated to align measurement activities with the key outcomes and metrics outlined in the model. The model’s goals and metrics were used to guide planning for Year 3 and also frame the reflections on Year 2 in this report.
Year 2 of SSA saw substantial participation in SSA programs across sites and the emergence of promising practices related to recruitment, readiness, retention, and completion. This report presents preliminary indicators of SSA initiative impacts, promising practices at SSA sites, and key lessons learned during Year 2. At the time of this report, no cohort of SSA participants (who joined as first-time, full-time freshman) has had the opportunity to complete (at least) two full years of courses. Thus, we do not yet have the data needed to address many questions regarding the impact of the SSA initiative on student outcomes. The executive summary provides a synopsis of Year 2 participation, outcomes, SSA strategies, and strategic considerations.