A promising way to mitigate inequality is by addressing students’ worries about belonging. But where and with whom is this social-belonging intervention effective? Here we report a team-science randomized controlled experiment with 26,911 students at 22 diverse institutions. Results showed that the social-belonging intervention, administered online before college (in under 30 minutes), increased the rate at which students completed the first year as full-time students, especially among students in groups that had historically progressed at lower rates. The college context also mattered: The intervention was effective only when students’ groups were afforded opportunities to belong. This study develops methods for understanding how student identities and contexts interact with interventions. It also shows that a low-cost, scalable intervention generalizes its effects to 749 4-year institutions in the United States.
Commentary on the research by Nicholas A. Bowman, Mary Louise Petersen Chair in Higher Education, a professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies, and the director of the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education at University of Iowa.