As policymakers ramp up their work on the annual federal budget, higher education advocates are looking to highlight how specific key investments can promote positive returns on investment for students, particularly those from low-income households.
On Wednesday, Third Way hosted a webinar with Dr. Benjamin Castleman, an associate professor of public policy and education at the University of Virginia, who detailed the impact a specific college advising program, the Bottom Line, has had in increasing degree attainment among students in under-resourced communities.
Castleman’s paper, which conducted a randomized control trial evaluation of the program in 2021, found that intensive advising during high school and college among low-income students led to large increases in bachelor's degree attainment.
Bottom Line begins during a student’s final year of high school and specifically targets low-income, college-ready students by providing one-on-one advising for 10-15 hours a week.
Students who were randomly offered enrollment in Bottom Line were found to be “substantially more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree within 5-6 years of high school,” and had a 7.6% increased likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree, representing a 16% increase relative to the control group. Students in the first experimental cohort had a 9.6% increased likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree within six years of high school, representing an 18% increase relative to the control group.
According to the paper, Bottom Line’s impact on degree attainment stems almost entirely from students graduating from high-quality institutions, which are characterized in the paper by having higher graduation rates, lower default rates, higher average earnings among their graduates, and higher mobility rates.
The paper goes on to detail how Bottom Line is a cost effective program by comparing it to outcomes associated with other financial aid programs.
According to the analysis, aid programs on average increase bachelor’s degree attainment by 1 percentage point or less per $1,000, with the most rigorously-evaluated aid programs increasing attainment by less than 0.5 percentage points per $1,000. By contrast, Bottom Line advising increases bachelor’s degree attainment by over 2 percentage points per $1,000.
According to Castleman, future analysis hopes to dig into how Bottom Line participation can impact outcomes in the labor market, wage trajectory, and income mobility.
The president's proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 includes $165 million in proposed funding for a first-of-its-kind Postsecondary Student Success Grant (PSSG) program, also referred to as the College Completion Fund (CCF), to support evidence-based strategies (like Bottom Line) aimed at improving student persistence and completion outcomes.
As Congress tackles its annual appropriations process, Third Way encourages policymakers to push for and invest in evidence-based student success models akin to Bottom Line.
Publication Date: 9/7/2023