Re-Imagining AdviseMI to Boost College Enrollment

Brian Jacob, Jasmina Camo-Biogradlija, Sophia Chong, Hersheena Rajaram
Key Findings:
  1. AdviseMI is implemented with fidelity to its program model and meets or exceeds all of its performance goals. These include the number of students meeting with an adviser, registering for the SAT/ACT, submitting a FAFSA application, and applying for and being accepted by at least one college.
  2. Advisers help students to overcome many barriers to college-going. School staff provide overwhelmingly positive feedback on the role played by advisers, especially their ability to provide one-on-one support, and their ability to assist students in matters related to financial aid. 
  3. In an effort to improve the program, MCAN commissioned YPL to conduct a quasi-experimental evaluation of AdviseMI looking at the effect of the program on college enrollment rates, over and above its primary performance indicator of college acceptance rates. We do not find evidence that college advising increases the college enrollment rate of seniors compared to a control group of similar schools that did not participate in the program.
  4. This analysis should be interpreted with caution as we did not have data on college application and acceptance rates for high schools in the comparison group. We are therefore unable to account for changing student preferences for college between AdviseMI and comparison group schools.
  5. Focus groups with advisers and school supervisors suggest that advisers’ ability to influence students is inhibited by:

  • the program’s narrow focus on seniors, whose postsecondary pathways may already be set;
  • a program model where advisers meet with every senior; and,
  • the fact that students who use the program’s resources most intensively are not necessarily those students who need the most assistance.

In response to the Youth Policy Lab’s findings, the Michigan College Access Network implemented changes to the AdviseMI program, including:

  • pivoting the advising model to a targeted approach in which each adviser has an intensive advising strategy for a cohort of approximately 50 students who are either low-income, first-generation, or seniors of color;
  • implementing “nudges” for students and parents to remind them of key dates and upcoming events while maintaining “low-touch” school-wide events such as Michigan College Month and Decision Day and general college advising; and
  • developing relationships with juniors, especially those in the following years’ cohort, starting from the middle of the year.
AdviseMI advisers help students to apply for college by providing assistance with college searches, applications and essay writing, and applying for financial aid.” Page 3