Final report preparation is underway.
September 2013 – February 2023
American Institutes for Research
Program and Policy Insight
Decision Information Research
Survey Research Management
Growing concern over college enrollment, completion, and costs has heightened interest in how to help low-income students, including those in college access programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education. One concern is the extent of "under-matching," when high school students fail to enroll in any postsecondary program or in a college that is well aligned with their qualifications and talents. This study tested whether adding a low-cost, enhanced college advising approach into the federal Upward Bound program improves students' college fit and persistence. The approach included customized packages with information about college-going and costs, text messaging of key application and financial aid deadlines tailored to students' intended choice, and specialized training for the students' advisors. The study fulfills a requirement in the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) to conduct a rigorous "promising practices" study.
About 200 Upward Bound grantees that volunteered were randomly assigned in spring 2015 so that half were able to use the enhanced advising materials and training with their rising SY 2015–2016 seniors and half were not (though they did receive access to the enhanced advising later). In both sets of grantees, the evaluation team administered surveys to the rising 2015–2016 seniors in spring 2015 (end of junior year) before grantees were randomly assigned, and then again in spring 2016 (end of senior year) to collect information about their college plans. The students' college enrollment was tracked through 2018. The evaluation assessed the impacts of the enhanced advising on 1) early indicators, such as the number of college applications submitted and students' completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and 2) if and where students enrolled in college (college "fit" or "match") and whether they were still enrolled after three years.
An interim report, Study of Enhanced College Advising in Upward Bound: Impacts on Steps Toward College, was released in October 2018.
The final report was published in November 2021 and can be found here: Study of Enhanced College Advising in Upward Bound: Impacts on Where and How long Students Attend College
The results from the final report examining the effects of a bundle of advising strategies called Find the Fit indicate:
Getting students to attend more selective colleges was meant to position them to reap the potential educational and career benefits of attending institutions with more instructional and financial resources, more academically prepared peers, and strong reputations. If college selectivity is indeed related to better college outcomes, broader effects on college selectivity than those found in this study would be needed to subsequently shift longer-term college outcomes. The findings from this study suggest lessons for improving college advising for students from low-income families and raise questions that remain to be answered.