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Coaching for Completion: Final Report for Success Boston Coaching

Kelly Lack, Hannah Acheson-Field, Tamara Linkow, Raquel Gonzalez, Abt Global


April 3, 2023

A college degree can lead to greater economic mobility and improved job market prospects. However, a 2008 report found that only 35 percent of Boston Public Schools (BPS) graduates who entered college had completed postsecondary education within seven years. To improve citywide completion rates, the Boston Foundation, the city of Boston, BPS, local nonprofits, and 37 local colleges and universities launched a college completion initiative called Success Boston. In 2022, Success Boston recommitted to achieving a 70-percent completion rate for BPS students of all backgrounds.

A core component of Success Boston’s strategy is transition coaching to support students in their first two years of college. Success Boston Coaching (SBC) matches recent BPS graduates with a coach, who meets with them regularly during their first two years of college and supports them as they navigate academic, financial, and social barriers in college. SBC primarily serves students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education, including members of racial/ethnic minority groups and economically disadvantaged students

Abt was hired to study the effects of SBC. Using a quasi-experimental design, we matched SBC students to students who did not receive the coaching but who had similar baseline characteristics and initially enrolled in the same college in the same year. Abt then collected data on students’ college outcomes. This is the final report in the study and focuses on SBC’s effects on postsecondary completion.

Looking across five BPS graduating classes, the study found that students who received SBC were 18 percent more likely to graduate in four years, and 12 percent more likely to graduate in five years, than their non-coached peers. Graduating college in less time can help students avoid the costs of additional years of college (potentially reducing student loan debt) and enables them to enter the workforce more quickly. However, within six years of entering college, coached and non-coached students graduated at similar rates. The results of this study, combined with the current citywide completion rate of 52 percent, highlight the need for continued collaboration to help more students cross the finish line.