Late Interventions Matter Too: The Case of College Coaching in New Hampshire

Fourth-quarter drives—even the most impressive—are often not enough to alter game outcomes. So it is with educational interventions: Getting students on track by third grade (and keeping them there) yields greater long-term results than high school interventions. However, this paper from two Dartmouth and UC Davis professors argues that certain late-game pushes can help college-going and college-persistence rates for some K–12 pupils. Analysts targeted “college-ready” high school seniors in twelve large New Hampshire high schools who had shown interest in college but had made little to no progress on their applications (guidance counselors helped ID these students). They randomly assigned about half of these students to receive targeted college coaching, meaning college-application mentoring from a Dartmouth student, money to cover application fees and ACT/SAT exams, and a $100 bonus if they completed the application and filing process. The authors found no statistically significant impact from the program for men but did find one for women: Young women who completed the treatment were 24 percent likelier to enroll in college than their control-group peers. Even those who received only part of the treatment saw a bump in college attendance. And this positive effect appeared greater for large, resource-challenged high schools with comparatively low baseline college-going rates. Further, when analysts examined persistence in four-year college—defined as attending three or more semesters or being enrolled for two years—the treatment effect was also 12 percentage points higher than the control group of women. (Analysts speculate that this gendered success story may be because women respond positively to the help the program provides, whereas men might see it as a statement that they are less capable.) While the price tag associated with bringing a program such as this to scale is potentially daunting, this paper shows that sometimes a form (and maybe its application fee) is the only thing standing between a student and a college education—and that stepped-up college counseling can make all the difference for some.

SOURCE: Scott Carell and Bruce Sacerdote, Late Interventions Matter Too: The Case of College Coaching in New Hampshire (National Bureau of Education Research, Dartmouth College, University of California Davis, July 2012).

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