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Effects of College Counselors on College Access: An Inverse Probability Weighting Analysis

Project Team:

Sponsor: Association for Institutional Research/National Science Foundation

Project Total: $20,000


Although strides have been made to promote more equity in college access, many populations, particularly low-income, first generation, and ethnic/racial minorities, are still highly underrepresented in higher education. One contributing factor is that many high schools, especially those with low college-going rates, lack sufficient college-related counseling. In recent years there has been an increased investment in college counseling initiatives; however little is known about the effects of specialized college counselors. This project examines the effect having a college counselor in a public high school has on three primary college access outcomes: 1) the number of college applications a student completes; 2) the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rate; and 3) postsecondary enrollment. The project uses a nationally-representative sample of public high school students from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09). Using inverse probability weighting, this study will compare the postsecondary application and enrollment outcomes of students who attended public high schools with a college counselor to a comparison group of students who did not have this additional resource. The study will provide insights into the effectiveness of college counselors, assist schools in making decisions about distribution of limited resources, and highlight practices that can be replicated on a larger scale.