Michigan 4-H Measures Pre-College Program Impacts with Help from StudentTracker for Outreach
By Dr. Chelsea Hetherington, Research & Evaluation Specialist, Michigan State University Extension
As part of fulfilling the land grant mission, Michigan State University (MSU) provides positive youth development programs to children and youth, ages 5 to 19. 4-H is the youth development program of Michigan State University Extension. Programs are delivered locally, at the county level, as well as statewide.
Amongst a multitude of experiences, Michigan 4-H has several pre-college programs geared towards helping youth develop the social and academic skills they need for a successful transition to college. These programs all seek to increase participants’ overall interest in college and to prepare youth for college by building the skills necessary for success.
For the last several years, Michigan 4-H staff have used National Student Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker for Outreach service to track rates of college enrollment and degree attainment in 4-H program alums, which helps demonstrate the positive impacts of our programs.
Using StudentTracker data, as well as publicly available comparison data from the Michigan Department of Education, I find that Michigan 4-H alumni consistently enroll in college at a higher rate than their peers. StudentTracker data has helped demonstrate that participation in Michigan 4-H programs is associated with higher rates of on-time college enrollment – a valuable impact to share with stakeholders, current participants and potential future participants alike.
MSU Extension programs receive funds from a number of different sources, including local county governments. When submitting records to StudentTracker, I always maintain county of residence information in the contact field. This allows me to compare rates of on-time college enrollment for 4-H alumni and non-4-H youth at the county level. Using this data, I find that Michigan 4-H alums enroll in college at a higher rate than their peers in 84 percent of Michigan counties. This information has been instrumental in communicating the value of 4-H programs to local county stakeholders.
Because Michigan 4-H pre-college programs are run by MSU Extension, university stakeholders are also interested in knowing what percentage of 4-H alumni enroll in college at MSU. Using StudentTracker data, I find that Michigan 4-H alumni who enroll in college are more likely to attend MSU, compared to other Michigan youth (11.5 percent versus 9.2 percent) and that MSU is the top college choice for Michigan 4-H alumni.
In addition to using StudentTracker data to measure rates of on-time college enrollment, I also re-submit program alumni records to StudentTracker to measure rates of degree attainment among 4-H alumni. Through this process, I find that Michigan 4-H alumni are more likely than their same-age peers to have earned a college degree six years after high school – at this benchmark, 41 percent of Michigan 4-H alumni have earned a degree, compared to only 36 percent of their peers.
StudentTracker data has been invaluable to conveying the impact of Michigan 4-H programs. Because of this data, we’ve had opportunities to share these results with our partners locally at the county level, with MSU and other state-level stakeholders, and with 4-H leaders at other land-grant universities across the country. The report that I prepare on this data has even been shared with our federal partners at the USDA and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), including the director of NIFA and other key USDA staff. You never know in whose hands your report might end up!
“StudentTracker data has helped demonstrate that participation in Michigan 4-H programs is associated with higher rates of on-time college enrollment – a valuable impact to share with stakeholders, current participants and potential future participants alike.”
Dr. Chelsea Hetherington
Research & Evaluation Specialist, Michigan State University Extension