This intervention took place in Boston from June 27, 2011 to August 10, 2011. In Fulton, the intervention took place between June 6, 2011 and July 11, 2011. The counseling sessions in Boston took place primarily at the provider's (uAspire) Center for College Affordability in Boston. In Fulton, the intervention mostly took place over the phone.
Ethnic minority students comprised more than 90 percent of the Boston sample (32% Black, 24% Latino, and 20% Asian). Nearly 85% of the Boston sample completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Of those who did complete the FAFSA, 62% had an EFC of zero and another 23% had an EFC that was nonzero, but still within the range of Pell-eligibility. Sixty five percent of the students were female.
In Fulton, ethnic minority students comprised 61% of the sample (49% Black, 6% Hispanic, 4% Asian) and 54% of the students were female. The students in the sample were relatively high performing relative to similar high school students in the Atlanta area. Thirty-seven percent of the students qualified for free- or reduced-price lunch.
Boston: Counselors made multiple attempts via phone, email, text, and Facebook to contact each intervention group student to offer support. Upon reaching students, advisors offered each a $25 gift card incentive to attend an in-person meeting. Researchers provided a protocol to the advisors for the outreach and support they were to provide. During the first in-person meeting, counselors completed a college assessment protocol that included the following elements: (1) Counselors reviewed the student’s financial aid award letter and provided guidance based on the student’s level of unmet financial need; (2) counselors briefed the student on the calendar of key summer deadlines at the college the student planned to attend, and helped the student understand and complete paperwork the student had already received from that college; and, (3) Counselors assessed whether the student faced social or emotional barriers to college enrollment in the fall. After the assessment, counselors helped students create a list of tasks they needed to complete in order to start college that fall. Counselors followed up with students individually to check on their progress in completing these tasks. Subsequent to the initial assessment meeting, much of the communication between counselors and students happened via phone, e-mail, and text, though counselors also conducted in-person follow-up meetings with students when they felt it important to do so.
Fulton: Counselors made multiple attempts via phone, email, text, and Facebook to contact each intervention group student to offer support. Upon reaching students, advisors offered counseling to the students. The researchers did not supply a protocol to the counselors in the Georgia site but encouraged counselors to follow their existing professional protocols for working with students. Counselors were encouraged to use an intake form that listed numerous tasks required for college enrollment during their initial contact with students. Counselors who met with students in person primarily used the school from which they were working, but the counselors depended on phone conversations to provide most of their support. Counselors logged whether and when they interacted with students (both intervention and comparison). Counselors indicated that many of their interactions with students focused on issues of financial aid. Counselors also reported addressing a variety of informational questions, such as how to access a college’s web portal, how to complete required paperwork, and what the matriculation process entailed. About 35% of the students had any communication with a counselor; approximately 25% of the non-FRL students had contact with a counselor, while nearly 54% of the FRL students had contact with a counselor.
Counselors logged whether and when they interacted with students (both intervention and comparison). Counselors indicated that many of their interactions with students focused on issues of financial aid. Counselors also reported addressing a variety of informational questions, such as how to access a college’s web portal, how to complete required paperwork, and what the matriculation process entailed. In Boston, more than 75% of students in the intervention group communicated with an advisor and 52% of students in the intervention group had at least one face-to-face meeting with an advisor.
The comparison group students did not receive outreach though they were assigned to a counselor. In both sites, counselors were instructed not to deny support to any comparison group student who actively sought help.
Support for implementation
The study authors provided the uAspire counselors in Boston with a protocol for their outreach activities and supplied the assessment protocol that guided the counselors’ advising. In Fulton, the study authors provided supplemental training for the counselors that focused on the federal and state financial aid application process.