“Over the past three decades, our nation has witnessed great increases in college-going rates—no doubt due in part to widespread efforts by education policymakers and college access practitioners. Yet despite progress, just over half of students enrolled in four-year institutions graduate within six years (NCES 2009).”

This disparity between college access and college success rates was the motivation for the Pathways to College Network (directed by the Institute for Higher Education Policy) and the National College Access Network to release a “Research to Practice Brief” on how social supports and self-efficacy affect the success of underrepresented student populations. The brief is part of the Pathways to College Network’s effort to promote the need for college retention support services that address both the academic and social needs of college students. To learn more about the college success field, they called on Bottom Line.

Bottom Line believes as the Pathways to College Network does: that students need to be supported as both academic achievers and, well,  as human beings. That’s why our College Success Program model focuses on four areas (academics, employment, financial aid, and emotional wellbeing), not simply academics. As the brief states, “In Bottom Line’s experience, the more confident its students are in their preparation and the more supported the students feel, the more likely they are to succeed in college.”

To learn more about the role of social support and self-efficacy in college retention, read a summary of the brief or the full brief.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In September, Bottom Line’s office began to fill with boxes. By exam season, our back room was teeming with snacks, branded dishes, empty mailing boxes, and turquoise crinkle paper. On October 27th, Bottom Line’s halls filled with the sounds of stuffing, taping, labeling, and the laughter of Bottom Line staff. In assembly-line style, we made care packages for our college students.

Care packages are one of the most revered parts of Bottom Line’s College Success Program, by staff and students alike. Last week, our office got to pause for an afternoon to package what we hope are the comfort and support our students needed to make it through their exams and midterm papers. After the last care package was wheeled away in a mail bin, the assembly line disbanded and we returned to checking emails, making calls, and meeting with students. Then the thank yous started coming in.

“I just got my care package! I totally love it! The package came right on time too… I just came out of an Orgo exam and the package made my night!” -Jen, Northeastern University

“Thank you so much for the care package that I got. It was such a nice surprise (I haven’t gotten any packages yet!). I’m already 90% done with the food that you sent me. Thanks!!” -Valerie, Boston College

“Thank you for the care package… I love the soup bowl and spoon! You guys are awesome. :)” -Leticia, Tufts University

While helping students plan study schedules, connect with tutors, and prioritize classwork during exam season is necessary, reminding them that there’s someone out there rooting for their success is just as important. That’s why we focus on delivering a “life” curriculum: our students need someone who can offer well-informed advice and the support and encouragement they need to get through the tough times.

Thank you to all our supporters and alumni who made it possible for us to send nearly 900 care packages this semester.

, , , , , , , ,

Since the day that Bottom Line began supporting students it was obvious that just working with them through the college application process wasn’t good enough.  The at-risk students we help “get in” are far too likely to drop out of college before completing a degree. Consequently, we built our programming model to remain connected and supportive until our students graduate from college. Until now, it wasn’t clear how big of an impact our program was having.  A study released by Harvard Doctoral candidate, Kolajo Afolabi, has been able to take a comparative look at our work and the results are impressive. According to the study, students in Bottom Line’s College Success program are up to 43% more likely to graduate from college than their peers.

In 2002 Bottom Line made a few changes that set the stage for this study.  That year marks the moment that the demand for our access program had grown too large for us to support every high school senior in our College Success program. It was then that our Success program began to evolve to supporting students at what we call “Target Schools”.  These are the schools where the majority of our students attend.  They are the schools that tend to be more affordable than others – often public colleges and universities and all in Massachusetts.  This change created a unique ability to measure the graduation rates of the students who went on to our Target colleges vs. those who decided to attend another school.  The populations we are comparing, while not exactly the same, have much in common.  Furthermore we were able to control for variables including ethnicity, high school academic performance and type of college attended.

While I am not surprised that the students who joined our College Success program have done better, I am impressed at the size of the disparity between the groups. Students who remain in our program are up to 43% more likely to complete a college degree than those who receive our college access support and then do not join our college program.

Kolajo’s work will help demonstrate to others why it is so important to think of the college application process as a beginning and not the end.  Coupling his research with our day to day work reinforces our belief that “getting in is not good enough.”  Please read the full study or the executive summary, and let us know what you think.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

A visit to Washington D.C. for the National College Access Network (NCAN) conference went from educational to exciting for our staff when Bottom Line was chosen as the winner of the 2010 College Access Organization Award of Excellence.  The announcement was made at the awards luncheon on Monday, October 11th by Kyle Malone, Senior Program Officer at USA Funds.  This was the 5th year of the award and it comes with a $5,000 Donation from USA Funds.

As just one of nearly 300 members in NCAN who represent a variety of programs and services focused on college access and success we are thrilled that our work with thousands of students in Boston and Worcester has been recognized so highly.   We believe that our model of one-on-one support is necessary to improve the low college graduation rates for our population of disadvantaged students.  Currently we have a college graduation rate of 73% and we are on track to make it even higher.

From start to finish, the underlying theme of the conference was persistence through college.  Many of the sessions and the key note speakers, Jim Applegate of the Lumina Foundation and Martha Kantor, the under-secretary of Education focused on this issue in their remarks.   Because Bottom Line has been focused on college graduation since our inception we are hopeful that our selection as the winner of this award will further demonstrate that “getting in” is not good enough.

Thank you to the committee of voters from around the country who selected Bottom Line! We are honored by our selection and look forward to living up to the high standards this award represents.

Greg Johnson
Executive Director

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Welcome to Bottom Line’s Blog, Getting Through!

As part of our newly designed website and as a unique place on the vast internet our blog will contribute to the dialogue surrounding the issues of College Access and College Success.

As one of the first community based organizations to make college student retention the focus of our work we are pleased to have this venue to share our thoughts and learnings about what it takes to help students get to and through college.  We expect that in this space, we will hear from our students, program staff and our management team as a way to foster an ongoing dialogue and to share what works in college retention.

Over the last decade and especially in the last couple years the conversation about “Getting Through” college has made it in to the mainstream.  This is a big change from the days when even our biggest supporters didn’t understand why we were spending so much time supporting college students.  However, the dialogue about keeping students in college, has raised some interesting questions that we explore everyday in our work and will share in this space. We anticipate discussing topics including: Which students are most in need of support? Where does the responsibility lie with helping students stay enrolled in college- with the high schools, colleges or somewhere in between? Can college retention support really be done from a community based organization?  What are the stories beneath the surface when students drop out of college?

We hope that you will learn with us as we address those questions and offer a laboratory of what works in college retention.  Again, welcome to our new blog and please return often.

Greg Johnson
Executive Director

, , ,