Saturday, November 10, 2012: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Carroll (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Organizers: Lindsay Page, Harvard University
Moderators: Susan Dynarski, University of Michigan and David Deming, Harvard University
Chairs: Steven W. Hemelt, University of Michigan
The summer after high school graduation occupies a treasured place in American culture. Popular movies and music portray recent graduates spending lazy days on the beach, taking road trips with their friends, and nervously anticipating first phone calls with new roommates to plan what each should bring to college. But does this conception of the post-high school summer accurately capture the experience of low-income high school graduates? Previous literature has documented the phenomenon of “summer fadeout”, where children, especially those from low-income backgrounds, may suffer achievement declines between the end of one school year and the start of the next one. Yet, the summer after high school graduation represents a largely unexamined stage of college access.
The proposed panel includes three papers that provide causal evidence on the impact of summer college counseling interventions aimed at improving rates of on-time post-secondary matriculation among recent high school graduates, primarily students from low-income backgrounds. The first paper responds to concerns about the low visibility of financial aid programs and the complexity of the aid process, which have spurred calls to provide more assistance to students in filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This paper reports results from a randomized trial in Albuquerque, New Mexico investigating the impact of offering recent graduates additional counseling to complete the FAFSA on the rate of FAFSA completion and college enrollment. While the target population of students in this experiment was earlier on in the formulation of their college plans, the second paper focuses on students who complete high school with well-formulated college plans. Despite having plans well in place, emerging research has uncovered that a substantial proportion of college-intending high school graduates – those who have applied and been accepted to college – do not subsequently matriculate the fall following graduation. The second paper provides evidence from randomized trials in Boston, Massachusetts and Fulton County, Georgia, in which students who had decided which college to attend as of high school graduation were offered summer college counseling to address potential barriers to their successful matriculation. The final paper provides quasi-experimental evidence from a similar intervention targeting college-intending high school graduates from a large school district in Texas.
Together, these papers provide evidence on steps that educators and policymakers can take to improve supports to students to successfully transition to college. Consistent with the conference theme, the interventions discussed represent low-cost and easily-scalable efforts to improve postsecondary matriculation among low-income students. The summer is a time ripe for policy intervention: the target population is well-defined, the time period is short and clearly bounded, and staff with relevant knowledge and training for delivering services are readily available. Evidence examined here provides guidance on the value of continuing to support students the summer after they graduate from high school and has the potential to redefine how practitioners and policymakers conceive of supporting low-income students in the transition to college.