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Promising Program Seal

Bottom Line College Advising Model

Blueprints Program Rating: Promising

A college advising program designed to support low-income and first-generation students during the college application process and throughout college enrollment.

  • Andrew Barr, Evaluator
  • Department of Economics, Texas AM University
  • abarr@tamu.edu
  • Post Secondary Education

    Program Type

    • Academic Services
    • School - Individual Strategies

    Program Setting

    • Community (e.g., religious, recreation)
    • School

    Continuum of Intervention

    • Selective Prevention (Elevated Risk)

    A college advising program designed to support low-income and first-generation students during the college application process and throughout college enrollment.

      Population Demographics

      Low-income and first-generation high school students

      Age

      • Late Adolescence (15-18) - High School

      Gender

      • Male and Female

      Race/Ethnicity

      • All Race/Ethnicity

      Race/Ethnicity/Gender Details

      Barr and Castleman (2017) showed that college enrollment rates were larger for Hispanic students in the treatment group as compared to Hispanic students in control group.

      Bottom Line provides individualized college advising to high school students starting at the end of their junior year. Eligibility criteria for the program includes: 1) a high school GPA of at least 2.3; 2) family income below 200 percent of the poverty line; and 3) being in the first generation in their family to go to college in the United States. Students are initially admitted into the “Access” program, which provides students with college and financial aid application support starting the summer before their senior year in high school through the summer after high school graduation. During this time, advisors help students identify well-matched colleges and then complete and submit college applications. The Bottom Line “Access” program also helps students evaluate the affordability of different postsecondary options, and then advisors actually help students apply for financial aid. Barr & Castleman (2017) reported that Bottom Line operates in several cities in 3 states (Massachusetts, New York, and Illinois). As reported in Barr & Castleman (2017), a unique component of the program is that counselors encourage students to attend a set of target colleges and universities within New York and Massachusetts that the program has identified as providing students with an optimal combination of quality and affordability. Students who enroll at one of the target institutions (approximately 50 percent of the students in Barr & Castleman, 2017) are eligible for the Bottom Line “Success” program, in which individualized and campus-based support is provided for up to six years following high school.

      Bottom Line provides individualized college advising to high school students starting at the end of their junior year. Eligibility criteria for the program includes: 1) a high school GPA of at least 2.3; 2) family income below 200 percent of the poverty line; and 3) being in the first generation in their family to go to college in the United States. Students are initially admitted into the “Access” program, which provides students with college and financial aid application support starting the summer before their senior year in high school through the summer after high school graduation. During this time, advisors help students identify and apply to colleges that are a strong match in terms of affordability, competitiveness and fit. The Bottom Line “Access” program advisors also help students apply for financial aid.

      Barr & Castleman (2017) reported that Bottom Line operates in three cities in 3 states (Boston, Massachusetts, New York, NY, and Chicago, Illinois). As reported, a unique component of the program is that counselors encourage students to attend a set of target colleges and universities typically in and around the cities where they work that the program has identified as providing students with an optimal combination of quality and affordability. Students who enroll at one of the target institutions (approximately 50 percent of the students in Barr & Castleman, 2017) are eligible for the Bottom Line “Success” program, in which individualized and campus-based support is provided for up to six years following high school.

      Through the “Success” program, advisors provide individualized and campus-based support to college students throughout their college enrollment for up to 6 years, with the goal that students will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in 6 years or less. Bottom Line provides ongoing advising during the summer after high school to help students navigate and complete required pre-matriculation tasks, such as attending orientation, completing placement tests, and setting up a tuition payment plan. Campus-based advisors at each target institution continue to meet regularly with students once they have matriculated into college. First-year students meet with advisors an average of 3 to 4 times per semester, and older students meet with an advisor and average of twice a semester. Advisors in the Bottom Line “Success” program provide a combination of academic support (e.g., course selection and making use of advising and tutoring services) and social support (e.g., helping students adjust to a new environment, getting involved with activities and student groups), and they also advise students on how to balance academic, work, social, and family commitments while in college.

      Through personalized one-on-one guidance and support provided by advisors, students can achieve their goals of college entrance and graduation.

      Barr and Castleman (2017) conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effect of Bottom Line on students’ college enrollment (overall) and enrollment into 4-year and 2-year colleges. The sample included 2,422 students from 2 cohorts (high school graduating classes of 2015 and 2016) across 2 regions (Boston & Worcester, MA and New York City, NY). Outcome measures were assessed using college enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

      Barr and Castleman (2017) found that treatment students were more likely to be enrolled in college than control students, and they were more likely to enroll in 4-year universities and less likely to enroll in 2-year colleges (compared to control students). Treatment students were also significantly more likely to persist in college (i.e., be enrolled in a second year, have more total enrolled semesters, and be continuously enrolled).

      Barr and Castleman (2017) found that, as compared to control students, treatment students showed higher rates in:

      • College enrollment
      • College enrollment in 4-year universities
      • College persistence

      Not conducted.

      Effect sizes were not reported.

      Barr & Castleman (2017) included low-income and first-generation high school students in Boston and Worcester, MA and New York City, NY.

      Barr and Castleman (2017)

      • Some baseline differences between treatment and control (2 out of 19 variables)
      • No pretest (since college outcomes are the posttest)

      • Blueprints: Promising

      Steve Colón, Chief Executive Officer
      Erin Harris, Director of Data and Evaluation
      eharris@bottomline.org

      Bottom Line
      50 Milk St., 16th Floor
      Boston, MA 02109
      857-415-4810
      www.bottomline.org

      Evaluation Methodology

      Design:

      Recruitment: Not discussed, other than that program staff actively promoted their program through high schools and non-profit partners in each of the communities where they operated (which for this study, was MA and NY).

      Assignment: Students were randomized to treatment (n=1,687) or control (n=735) across 2 regions (Boston & Worcester, MA and New York City, NY) and two cohorts (graduating classes of 2014 and 2015) via a lottery system. In the spring of 2014, the program accepted applications in two waves: one application window was closed at the end of May and the other one was closed at the end of August. In 2015, the program accepted applications at the end of August. Students were randomized to either receive an offer to participate in the Bottom Line Access program or to be in a control group that did not receive any services from Bottom Line. The number of schools from which students attended was not reported. In addition, some treatment students got Bottom Line “Access” and “Success” and some got just Bottom Line “Access,” but all were randomized to one treatment group.

      Attrition: The authors reported that 2,422 were assigned to condition and administrative records on college enrollment were collected on 2,422 students, so there was no attrition. The analysis of college persistence included only cohort 1 (N = 1429), which had advanced far enough to enroll for a second-year of college, but otherwise appeared to have no missing data.

      Sample: Sample characteristics were provided by condition (see Table 1). Among the treatment students, 70.1% were female, and the racial/ethnic composition of the students was: 32.4% Black, 31.7% Hispanic, 23.7% Asian, and 9.5% other races. Among the control students, 69.7% were female, and in terms of race/ethnicity, students were 30.2% Black, 32.5% Hispanic, 24.6% Asian, and 9.4% other races. Both treatment and control groups had a first-generation student rate of 81.1%. It appeared that students were low income, as their parents’ average gross income was $22,520 a year.

      In terms of counselors, most counselors were female (75%), with roughly a quarter black and a quarter Hispanic. The median counselor age was 26 years.

      Measures: Outcome data came from the National Student Clearinghouse, which provided student’s term-level college enrollment data into 2-year and 4-year colleges. College entrance, (as in the period of time between high school graduation and entrance into college), however, was not defined, although one cohort (2015) had up to 2 years to potentially enroll in college after high school graduation, while the other (2016) had up to 1 year of potential opportunity to enroll in college. College persistence was measured as enrollment in a second year, total enrolled semesters, and continuous enrollment. College quality was measured as enrollment in the student’s target college and enrollment in a college with a high graduation rate, high SAT/ACT entrance scores, and a low default rate.

      Outcome data were collected from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), “with coverage across 96% of college enrollments in the country” (p. 9). Given that no missing outcome data were reported, it appeared that students without a record in the NSC data base were assigned a 0, indicating they did not enroll in college. This, however, was not explicitly stated.

      Analysis: Barr and Castleman (2017) pooled across cohorts to conduct the analysis. Main effects were tested using logistic regression models, controlling for site using cohort fixed effects. Other covariates included socio-demographic variables, such as race/ethnicity, gender, whether the student was the first in their family to go to college, whether they were working with another college access organization at the time they applied for Bottom Line, their high school GPA, SAT/ACT scores (if they had taken the exam), family income, and whether they had a sibling who had participated in the Bottom Line program. In addition, sub-group analyses were conducted by gender, race, and high school GPA.

      Intent-to-Treat: All participants were analyzed according to the condition in which they were assigned which is in line with intent-to-treat protocol.

      Outcomes

      Implementation Fidelity: Fidelity data only included dosage. Bottom Line counselor interaction data indicated that 97% of the treatment students had at least one interaction with a counselor. In addition, over a 15-month period, counselors interacted with students an average of 13 times, with the majority of these interactions occurring as in-person meetings in the counselor’s office.

      Baseline Equivalence: Tests showed significant differences between the treatment and control groups in 2 (out of 19) variables: treatment students were: 1) less likely to be a U.S. citizen, and 2) more likely to have a father who was employed. While the main effects analysis controlled for socio-demographic variables, it was not clear whether these specific variables were included in the model.

      Differential Attrition: No attrition.

      Posttest: Results showed that treatment students were significantly more likely to be enrolled in any college than control students, and the effect was larger when looking at four-year college enrollment. At the posttest, treatment students were 7% points more likely to enroll in any college than the control students. A larger effect was found on four-year college enrollment, with a 10%-point increase among treatment students as compared to the control group. In contrast, the program significantly reduced enrollment in 2-year colleges. Additional tests showed that the program significantly increased enrollment in the student’s target college and enrollment in colleges with high graduation rates, high SAT/ACT entrance scores, and a low default rate.

      Supplemental analyses indicated that treatment effects in college enrollment were larger for Hispanics and individuals with lower high school GPAs.

      College persistence was reported for only one cohort (students in the 2014 high school graduating cohort). The results indicated that compared to control students, treatment students experienced significantly higher second-year enrollment in any college, second-year enrollment in a 4-year college, total enrolled semesters, and continuous enrollment.

      Long-Term: Because program students who attended college continued to receive counseling, the study did not examine long-term effects.