(from The Brookings Institution):

By Jimmy R. Ellis and Seth Gershenson

College dropout rates are quite high, and at least partially offset the recent trend of increases in college enrollments in the U.S. First-generation students, those attending college for the first time in their families, experience particularly high dropout rates. This is troubling because college degrees facilitate upward socioeconomic mobility, yet these students who may benefit from college the most fail to obtain these rewards.

First-generation students are especially vulnerable to dropout during their first year of college, as they often struggle to acclimate to the college setting and lack access to a de facto college counselor at home (i.e., a parent with postsecondary experience). Accordingly, many postsecondary institutions have instituted various forms of advising and mentoring programs, with the aim of increasing student persistence in higher education, with a focus on the most vulnerable students.

However, evidence on the efficacy of such programs is mixed. One likely reason for the mixed results is that many early studies failed to account for selection into advising and support services. For example, if struggling students are more likely to utilize support services, naïve analyses will document a spurious negative correlation between take-up of support services and student outcomes. Another potential explanation of the mixed results that applies even to rigorous experimental studies is the relatively low take-up rates of voluntary support services, particularly among male students. That men are less engaged with campus support services is consistent with broader trends in gender gaps in educational attainment. Another understudied question, then, is what policy levers are available to university administrators and policy makers that might increase student engagement with advising and mentoring programs. We address both questions in a recent working paper that was partially supported by the W.E. Upjohn Institute. CONTINUE READING HERE