An Intervention Return on Investment Tool for Community Colleges


College administrators are better positioned than ever before to make decisions about adopting programs based on the effectiveness and cost of interventions. There is, however, a third piece of information critical to decision-making: the amount of revenue an intervention would generate at their college because of increased student retention, course taking, and degree attainment.

It is rare for studies to estimate the amount of revenue generated by an intervention. Furthermore, colleges differ in their tuition rates, and states differ in their higher education funding formulas, making estimates of the revenue generated by an intervention at one institution of little use to administrators at another institution. Thus, college administrators are largely left to their own devices.

MDRC’s Intervention Return on Investment (ROI) Tool is a free, interactive web application that allows community college administrators to estimate the costs and revenues associated with implementing an intervention (for example, enhanced advising) at their college based on customized regional prices, college expenditures, tuition prices, and state funding models.

The tool comes pre-loaded with 20 community college interventions—including comprehensive student support programs, developmental education reforms, financial aid reforms, learning communities, communication campaigns, and mentoring programs—that MDRC has studied in randomized controlled trials. Additionally, with a little more work, users can input information about an intervention from a non-MDRC study.

Launch the ROI Tool

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

MDRC hopes that the Intervention ROI Tool enables college administrators to improve their decision-making about adopting new interventions and to better plan for the financial sustainability of interventions, ultimately leading to stronger interventions and better outcomes for students, particularly low-income students and students of color who have been the focus of MDRC’s studies.

The beta version of the tool will launch in the spring of 2022.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

The Intervention ROI Tool draws on data from MDRC’s The Higher Education Randomized Controlled Trial (THE-RCT), which includes student-level data from over 30 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that MDRC has conducted in higher education with over 60,000 students at 45 different colleges. The Intervention ROI Tool uses data from 20 of these RCTs.

The tool also draws on data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, as well as documentation of state funding models.