Panel Paper: Easing the Transition: Effects from a Longitudinal Evaluation of College Coaching

Friday, November 8, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 10 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Tamara Linkow1, Erin Bumgarner1, Austin Nichols1, Kelly Lack1 and Beth Gamse2, (1)Abt Associates, Inc., (2)Gamse Partnership

The connection between college completion and future economic stability motivated an ambitious city-wide collaboration. Success Boston Coaching (SBC) provides one-on-one college transition coaching to the city’s public school graduates to reduce barriers in students’ entry into and success in college, particularly for students from groups traditionally underrepresented in college.

SBC is designed to help students overcome many of the obstacles to college matriculation and persistence. Initially launched in 2009, SBC is implemented across a network of nonprofit organizations in partnership with local colleges. The initiative provides one-on-one coaching during students’ first two years of college. Since the fall of 2015, SBC has been scaled up expanding the program’s reach from several hundred to 1,000 young adults per cohort.

This study assesses whether transition coaching affects students’ short-term college outcomes both before and after the scale-up. Guided by the current methodological research on best quasi-experimental design practices, we constructed such a comparison group using a matching process that had two features: matches were local (the comparison cases were drawn from the same settings—matching blocks based on of unique combinations of cohort, high schools, and college) and also focal (matching done using baseline characteristics believed to predict both selection into treatment and the outcome, including gender, race/ethnicity, high school academic achievement, socioeconomic status).

The analyses conducted to date estimate that one-on-one transition coaching supports improve student outcomes along several important dimensions on the path to college completion, including how long students persist in college, their academic achievement while in college, and their timely completion of applications required to access available federal financial aid. This summer, longitudinal impacts will be available following the 2013 and 2014 cohorts for five and four years after initial enrollment, respectively. Furthermore, short-term results will be available for the two more recent cohorts (2015 and 2016). These new results will provide insights into the scalability of SBC and potential to improve college completion, the ultimate outcome.

This study builds on prior research about transition coaching and offers an opportunity to learn more about the effectiveness of coaching. As such, the study can contribute meaningfully to the knowledge base about successful strategies to improve the college completion rates for students.