Another especially promising RCT finding of the past 18 months: Castleman & Barr’s study of @BottomLineOrg (One-on-one advising to help low-income students get into & graduate from college). Quick take: High-quality RCT finds large (8% point) increase in 4-year college degree completion.


  • Bottom Line is a comprehensive program that provides one-on-one advising to help students from low-income backgrounds get into & graduate from college. Advising takes place during high school senior year and continues through college for students who attend one of Bottom Line’s target colleges. Program cost is approximately $4000/student.

Study Design:

  • This was a large RCT, with a sample of 2,422 low-income students at three sites: Boston, Worcester MA, & NYC. Approximately 70% of sample members were female, 64% were Black or Hispanic, and 81% were children of parents who did not attend college. The study was well-conducted (e.g., no sample attrition, good baseline balance).


  • At 6-year follow-up, 55% of treatment group had completed a bachelor's degree vs 47% of controls.

  • This result was statistically significant (p<0.01), & sizable effects were found at all 3 sites - providing definitive evidence of effectiveness at scale.


  • Based on the strength of the study, large impact findings, and modest program cost, I believe this one of most important RCT results in history of higher education.

  • Disclosure: My former employers, Arnold Ventures & Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, along with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, funded this study. Here’s a more detailed evidence summary. Here’s the most recent study report.  

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