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Success Boston: Evaluating Transition Coaching for College Success


  • Does Success Boston’s transition coaching program improve college student outcomes?
  • Abt measured college persistence, achievement, and completion among participants and similar students.
  • Study results showed Success Boston Coaching can improve many student outcomes.
The Challenge

A 2008 report showed only 35 percent of Boston public school graduates who had enrolled in college had completed a postsecondary credential within seven years of graduation. To improve completion rates, the Boston Foundation, the city of Boston, Boston Public Schools, local nonprofits, and 37 local colleges launched a citywide college completion initiative, Success Boston, focused on students getting ready, getting in, getting through, and getting connected. A core component of the initiative is the provision of transition coaching to support students in their first two years of college.

The Approach

Abt evaluated Success Boston’s transition coaching program to see if it helps improve student outcomes, following students in the Boston Public School graduating classes of 2013-2017 for up to six years. Using a quasi-experimental design, Abt matched Success Boston students to noncoached students who graduated from similar high schools, originally enrolled at the same college, and had similar background characteristics such as high school achievement, gender and race. The study looks at the program’s effects on postsecondary persistence, achievement, financial aid, and completion.

The Results

Abt’s study has shown that Success Boston Coaching has significant positive effects. Interim outcome reports have found that Success Boston Coaching can help improve students’ persistence—especially into the second and third years of college—as well as financial aid filing and achievement outcomes (like credit accumulation). Abt’s final impact report also found Success Boston Coaching can improve students’ four- and five-year completion rates. Additional reports show how coaching is implemented through collaborative cross-sector efforts. These studies collectively illustrate the importance of a continued focus on helping address the barriers students face to help more students cross the finish line.