Among those deemed eligible for the program, a list with randomly-generated applicant IDs is sent to LEO, and the research team randomly assigns approximately half into treatment and the rest to the comparison sample. UP staff can handle 40 new applicants a year, so the capacity of the program determines how many applicants are assigned to the treatment group within each cohort. If there are 30 eligible candidates and 14 spots in UP, 16 candidates are assigned to the control group. If a person is assigned to the control group, they are ineligible for UP. There are currently no plans to open up enrollment in UP for this group.
Although there are similarities between UP and other programs that also incorporate mentoring, UP stands out for several key reasons: its focus on single parents, the ongoing, monthly financial support, the support provided by the coalition agencies in addition to the primary mentoring structure, and the low student-mentor ratio. UP’s $200 monthly stipend is paid to all participants for the full two years of the program, without any additional requirements or conditions.
During the application process, participants consent to be followed in administrative records. The key outcomes for this evaluation are centered on the parent: their level of education and labor market success. LEO plans to measure college enrollment and graduation through National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) data. All of the colleges that a student can attend in the Rapid City area are members of the NSC. LEO also plans to measure economic outcomes using earnings data and TANF and SNAP enrollment from the state of South Dakota. A data sharing agreement with the state is in progress. Earlier this year, LEO established a data sharing agreement with the local school district to track outcomes of the children of the parents, although this will most likely not be part of this initial study.