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Summaries of RCT Grants

Long-term follow-up of the RCT of Bottom Line to evaluate the impacts of a successful college advising program on employment, earnings, and debt accumulation

This project will extend a well-conducted RCT of Bottom Line – a program that helps low-income students get into and graduate from college – to measure the program’s impacts on employment, earnings, and debt accumulation in the years following college graduation.

Grant Recipient: Texas A&M University

Term: 2022 — 2026

Principal Investigators:

Andrew Barr, Texas A&M University

Ben Castleman, University of Virginia

Funding: $424,318

Summary: This project will extend a well-conducted RCT of Bottom Line – a program that helps low-income students get into and graduate from college – to measure the program’s impacts on employment, earnings, and debt accumulation in the years following college graduation. The study previously found that Bottom Line produced a sizable increase in the likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree within five years of expected high school graduation. 

Bottom Line provides one-on-one guidance to low-income students beginning in their senior year of high school and continuing for up to six years during college. Full-time, trained advisors help students identify colleges where they are likely to be successful, apply to those schools, complete financial aid applications, and select a college that best meets their needs. Once enrolled, students who attend a college affiliated with Bottom Line are offered ongoing support from campus-based advisors in several areas including course selection, adjusting to college life, and managing financial aid. 

Between 2014 and 2015, researchers randomly assigned 2,422 eligible high school students to a group that received an offer to participate in Bottom Line or to a control group that was not offered the program. Previously, the study found that Bottom Line produced an 8 percentage point increase in the likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree within six years after random assignment (i.e. five years after expected high school graduation) – 55% of the Bottom Line group received a bachelor’s degree vs. 47% of the control group. 

Under this project, the researchers will extend the study to measure the impacts of Bottom Line on employment and earnings using administrative data in the years immediately following college (i.e. eight to nine years after random assignment, depending on study cohort). The researchers will also use administrative data to measure Bottom Line’s effect on participants’ debt accumulation over the same period.

The study’s pre-specified analysis plan will be posted shortly.

Grants

Arnold Ventures funds projects to understand problems and identify policy solutions.

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