Name of Institution: Berkeley Policy Associates
Principal Investigator: Dr. Tiffani Chin
Title: An Evaluation of the SOURCE (Student Outreach for College Enrollment) Program: An Intervention to Promote College Application and Enrollment Among Urban Youth
Purpose: Young people from higher income families are much more likely to attend college than those of limited means, and only about half of the disparity can be attributed to differences in high school grades and test scores. The purpose of this study is to assess an advising program that seeks to increase college-going among inner-city youth. The program is motivated by research showing that disadvantaged students are less successful than other students in completing the college application process, including registering for and taking the SAT, completing and submitting college applications, and completing financial aid applications. At the end of the project, the study will show whether the advising program in one large urban school district encourages low-income youth to complete the college application process, to enroll in college and to complete college courses.
Setting: The evaluation is being conducted in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a district with a low college enrollment rate among academically qualified students.
Population: The participants are high school juniors with GPAs of at least 2.5 who have completed the courses required for California State University enrollment and who attend high schools that have relatively high proportions of low-income students will participate in the study. The program is designed to serve these students through high school graduation.
Intervention: SOURCE provides advice, counseling, and oversight to high school students to help improve their information about actual college costs and complete specific activities or milestones associated with the college application process.
Participating high school juniors and seniors will receive guidance on SAT registration/completion and college application completion from trained advisors, and will be offered assistance in completing financial aid documents from a private tax preparation firm. Trained SOURCE advisors/mentors will provide all of the counseling services to participating students. These advisors will be recruited among Los Angeles area graduate and undergraduate students, trained on how to provide counseling services, and paid a stipend for their work. The total cost of providing the services is approximately $800 per student, much lower than more intensive college preparation programs such as Upward Bound or Quantum Opportunities Program.
Research Design and Methods: The evaluation design is a randomized controlled trial in which eligible students who have completed applications will be randomly assigned to the treatment group (1,000 students) or the control group (2,000 students). Treatment group students will receive SOURCE services through high school graduation.
During the first two years of the study, advisors will collect and provide program implementation data on an ongoing basis, and program coordinators will provide periodic updates on program group members' progress towards the various steps in the college application process.
Control Condition: Students in the 'treatment as usual' control group will be free to seek assistance from school guidance advisors, teachers, and tax professionals.
Key Measures: A variety of data will be collected. A student survey will be used to collect baseline data on demographic characteristics, educational aspirations, current GPA and course credits, and family education background. College enrollment data will be collected six months after high school graduation from the National Student Clearinghouse, a widely used source in higher education research. Financial aid data will be collected from administrative sources at the end of the students' first year in college. In the spring 2008, when many students will be at the end of their first year in college, a student survey will collect information on a wide set of educational and employment outcomes.
Data Analytic Strategy: The data will be analyzed using regression analysis, with separate impact analyses for different demographic subgroups, and analyses that look at variation in program effects with implementation. The outcomes include college enrollment, completion of college credits, and receipt of financial aid in college.