The Math and the Path: Enhanced Advising and Postsecondary Progress

Last registered on August 06, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

The Math and the Path: Enhanced Advising and Postsecondary Progress
Initial registration date
August 05, 2020
Last updated
August 06, 2020, 10:06 AM EDT


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Primary Investigator

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of North Carolina Greensboro

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
This project explores the effects of an enhanced advising intervention at a large, public, 4-year institution on measures of students’ postsecondary progress, performance, and completion. The intervention privileges face-to-face* interaction with advisors and augments advising appointments with pieces of information often absent from discussions of academic planning and progress, such as up-to-date financial aid information. We partnered with a large, public institution in North Carolina. We provided feedback to staff at that institution as they crafted the intervention to address students’ needs and reflect the institutional context. The intervention targets students who are at least halfway through college and remain at some risk of dropout. A team at the institution developed the holistic enhanced advising research trial (HEART) over the course of a year and will implement it during the 2020-21 academic year. Randomization will occur over the summer of 2020 so that treatment-group students can be contacted leading into fall 2020. Implementation will occur throughout the 2020-21 academic year. We will evaluate the effect of the treatment on 5-year graduation rates, as well as a number of intermediate outcomes along the path to completion, such as credits attempted and earned, year-to-year persistence, course performance (i.e., GPA by term), and declared academic major by term.

[*Due to COVID-19, all meetings with advisors will take place via videoconferencing technology.]
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Hemelt, Steven and Samantha Raynor. 2020. "The Math and the Path: Enhanced Advising and Postsecondary Progress." AEA RCT Registry. August 06.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details


The intervention includes three key treatment elements:
a) access to a trained advisor with a caseload half the typical size (i.e., and advisor-to-students ratio of 1:150 rather than 1:300) and wide knowledge of available degree paths at UNCG;
b) up-to-date, easy-to-digest information on remaining financial aid and academic progress; and
c) a modest grant structured as an incentive stipend over two terms. (Student will receive a financial stipend of $300 total, delivered in two $150 installments, the first after meeting twice with her advisor in Fall 2020 and the second after two meetings in Spring 2021.)

Students in the control group will have access to the regular, ongoing services throughout the university (e.g., a counselor-to-student ratio of 1:300). Many control-group students will receive advising via faculty in their major.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
5-year graduation rate
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Credits attempted and earned by term, course performance (GPA) by term, declared academic major by term, year-to-year persistence
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We will randomize the eligible sample evenly into treatment and control groups. However, we will use a blocked randomization approach wherein we first group the eligible sample by estimated probability of graduating in 5 years (quantiles), current college (School of Health and Human Sciences, School of Business or Economics, and College of Arts & Sciences), and gender. Within each of these strata, we will then randomize students evenly into the treatment and control groups.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Computerized randomization using the psuedorandom number generator in Stata 16.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
613 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
613 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
The final sample will contain 613 students. They will be split between the treatment and control groups.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
UNC IRB and the Office of Human Research Ethics
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number