Panel Paper: The Effectiveness of College Access Programs in Improving College Readiness and Enrollment: A Meta-Analysis

Friday, November 7, 2014 : 8:30 AM
Aztec (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Stuart T. Andreason1, Celeste Denman1, Rebecca Maynard1, Kata Orosz1, Abigail Simons1, Eleanor L. Harvill2, Hoa Nguyen1, Claire Robertson-Kraft1 and Namrata Tognatta1, (1)University of Pennsylvania, (2)Abt Associates
This paper presents findings from a systematic review of studies that used rigorous quantitative research methods to estimate the effect of college access programs on the academic preparedness, and subsequent college enrollment, of high school students. It is an update to a systematic review of college access programs that was conducted by Harvill and colleagues in 2010, prompted by the large number studies completed in the last few years.

The study examines two broader categories of college access programs: pre-packaged whole school reform efforts; and supplementary services provided at the student level. The synthesis includes interventions that explicitly identified increasing college readiness and/or college enrollment as a primary goal of the program, were fielded since 1990, in the United States or in a country with a comparable education system, and targeted students in grades 6-12. Focal outcomes include math achievement, language arts achievement, high school coursework completion, high school graduation, and college enrollment.

The synthesis includes only findings from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and well-controlled quasi-experimental design (QED) studies. Among the criteria for well-controlled quasi-experimental designs is establishment of baseline equivalence between the treatment and comparison groups in the analytic sample.  RCTs with high attrition are treated like QED studies. Studies were identified through structured searches of electronic databases and the internet and through hand searching of journals. Studies were individually reviewed, coded, and effect size estimates were extracted for each outcome measure.

Among the findings are that, on average, those college access programs that have been rigorously evaluation show evidence of increasing high school graduation rates, although the results based on only randomized controlled trials are decidedly less favorable than those based on the QEDs. The estimated effects on college enrollment are positive and significant irrespective of evaluation design.