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Addressing the COVID Gap Year Among Low-income Students and Students of Color: Helping Unenrolled Recent High School Grads Stay on Track with College Plans
Last registered on April 09, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Addressing the COVID Gap Year Among Low-income Students and Students of Color: Helping Unenrolled Recent High School Grads Stay on Track with College Plans
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0007134
Initial registration date
April 08, 2021
Last updated
April 09, 2021 11:38 AM EDT
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Dartmouth College
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Brown University
PI Affiliation
University of Pittsburgh
PI Affiliation
University of Maryland
PI Affiliation
Harvard University
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2021-02-22
End date
2025-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major disruption for U.S. students and has led to a severe reduction in college enrollment, especially among low-income and underrepresented minority students. For instance, at community colleges, Black, Hispanic and Native American freshman enrollment is down by nearly 30 percent and White and Asian American freshman enrollment is down by about 20 percent. The fact that economically disadvantaged U.S. high school seniors and recent graduates have had their college-going plans disrupted raises concern that these students’ college-going intentions will be derailed beyond a year and have long-term negative consequences for their educational attainment and ultimately economic security. We will study an intervention focused on helping low-income and underrepresented minority students get their college-going plans back on track. In our proposed work, we partner with the Rhode Island Department of Education and the non-profit Let’s Get Ready to implement a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) evaluation of a near-peer mentoring program that will serve graduating high school seniors from the Class of 2020 who expressed interest in college, but did not enroll in 2021. Ninety percent of students in our potential study sample are students of color and 70 percent will be first generation college if they enroll. The RCT will involve two treatment arms, defined by having more or less intensive mentoring services. In both treatment arms, mentor-mentee communication will occur virtually, via text messaging and one-on-one phone or video conversations. Let’s Get Ready mentors will assist unenrolled high school graduates with the college choice and application process. Program students who enroll in college will then continue to receive college-going mentoring support for up to four years, including the option of intensive near-peer mentoring for the first two years. Our evaluation of this intervention will use a mixed methods approach to investigate mechanisms for the impacts. We will use standard RCT econometric techniques to examine impacts on college enrollment, college persistence, graduation outcomes, and eventually earnings. We will augment our econometric analyses with more qualitative methods to gain insight into the major challenges faced by students in our study sample and the likely mechanisms behind any observed effects of the intervention.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Avery, Christopher et al. 2021. "Addressing the COVID Gap Year Among Low-income Students and Students of Color: Helping Unenrolled Recent High School Grads Stay on Track with College Plans." AEA RCT Registry. April 09. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7134-1.0.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2021-02-22
Intervention End Date
2025-05-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
College enrollment, credit hours attempted, credit hours completed, reenrollment, graduation, and subsequent earnings
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We will explore heterogeneity in student outcomes by 10th grade reading and math scores from RI standardized assessments, SAT and ACT scores, gender, race/ethnicity, free- or reduced-price lunch eligibility, disability status, year of birth, parental education, family structure, home ZIP code and high school.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We will examine the effectiveness of the two treatment arms relative to a control group by implementing a randomized control trial. Eligible students from the class of 2020 and 2021 recruited through the Rhode Island Department of Education will be randomized into one of the following three groups:

1) The Control group will receive "business as usual," meaning a single mailing with generic college-going resources.

2) The lower-intensity treatment group will have access to Let's Get Ready's existing "Core" program and will receive weekly texting reminder and two-way text interaction services from near-peer mentors. The text curriculum includes college list-building, completing college essays and applications, FAFSA filing, choosing among college offers and aid packages, scholarship searches, and matriculating to college. For students who enroll in college in Fall 2021, services will continue through college to support persistence and students will be offered virtual near-peer mentoring, which is part of LGR's existing program.

3) The higher-intensity treatment group will have access to LGR's "CorePlus" program and will receive texts from the Core program topics tailored to their needs combined with monthly one-on-one virtual meetings with a near-peer mentor and milestone tracking to identify students who need more support. For students who enroll in college in Fall 2021, services will continue through college to support persistence and students will be offered virtual near-peer mentoring, which is part of LGR's existing program.

Students from the class of 2020 already identified by LGR as having had their college plans interrupted by COVID-19 will be randomized between the two treatment groups.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization by researchers using a computer
Randomization Unit
Two cohorts of students (class of 2020 and 2021) recruited through the Rhode Island Department of Education will be randomized between the control and two treatment arms, while a third group of students from the class of 2020 already recruited by the provider Let's Get Ready were randomized between the two treatment arms.
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
3,400 students (3,000 from two RIDE cohorts and 400 from LGR cohort)
Sample size: planned number of observations
3,400 students (3,000 from two RIDE cohorts and 400 from LGR cohort)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1,000 students control, 1,200 students Core (texting) treatment, 1,200 students CorePlus (texting + near-peer virtual mentor) treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
CorePlus vs. Core Treatment: 5.5-6 percentage point enrollment differences at 80% power and 6.5 percentage point differences at 90% power, assuming .40 Core Treatment enrollment rate, similar sample sizes and given a=.05.
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Dartmouth Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
2021-02-25
IRB Approval Number
STUDY00032192