Intensive College Counseling and the College Enrollment Choices of Low Income Students

33 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2014

See all articles by Benjamin Castleman

Benjamin Castleman

University of Virginia

Joshua Goodman

Brandeis University - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 1, 2014


Low income high school graduates are less likely to enroll in four-year colleges than their more advantaged peers. When they do enroll, they are more likely to choose colleges with low graduation rates and higher costs, increasing their risk of leaving college without a degree and with substantial debt. Such decision-making may be driven in part by a lack of information about the full range of college options that are available to students. We study the potential for intensive college counseling to remedy this informational barrier and improve students’ college choices. Capitalizing on an arbitrary cut-off in the admissions criteria for Bottom Line, an college advising program in Massachusetts, we use a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effect of intensive advising on students’ college choices as well as on their overall enrollment and persistence in college. We find that intensive college advising substantially shifts towards one of the four-year colleges encouraged by the program and away from institutions the program discourages. This effect is particularly strong for students from families where English is not the first language, and for whom the informational barriers may be particularly constraining. This shift in enrollment reduces the average net price of the institutions students are attending, likely lowering their financial burden. Finally, we see suggestive evidence of increases in overall four-year college enrollment and persistence through the first two years of college. We argue that this evidence indicates that intensive college advising can generate large impacts on college enrollment decisions and may improve persistence and, ultimately, degree completion.

Suggested Citation

Castleman, Benjamin and Goodman, Joshua, Intensive College Counseling and the College Enrollment Choices of Low Income Students (June 1, 2014). HKS Working Paper No. RWP14-031, Available at SSRN: or

Benjamin Castleman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Joshua Goodman

Brandeis University - Department of Economics ( email )

Waltham, MA 02454-9110
United States


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