Success Study of the Horatio Alger Association Scholarship Program

The Horatio Alger Association (HAA) Scholarship program is a national effort that awards financial scholarships and provides mentoring to at-risk students who have experienced different types of adversity while still demonstrating strong academic potential.  NORC has completed Phases One and Two of the Success Study of the HAA Scholarship Program to understand the factors associated with students’ abilities to overcome adversity and succeed in college and beyond.

The Success Study of the Horatio Alger Association (HAA) Scholarship Program is a multiphase, mixed-methods research project designed to examine the individual attributes, support structures, and educational experiences that increase the ability of individuals to overcome adversity and to achieve educational and life success. The primary aim of the Success Study is to determine the relative importance of different factors in determining success. By analyzing populations of current and former HAA Scholarship recipients who are distinguished by their exposure to severe adversity and difficult social conditions, findings from the present set of analyses provide new information on the utility of resources and supports for a unique and resilient population of college students.

Phase One of the Success Study, completed in 2011, examined background conditions of applicants to the HAA Scholarship Program for identifying areas of disadvantage and describing why certain students were able to succeed academically despite disadvantages. By examining applicants to the HAA Scholarship program in relationship to a nationally representative sample of high school seniors, the results provide useful information for researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners interested in fostering resilience among college aspirants, as well as a more nuanced perspective on improving college access for at-risk students.  During Phase Two of the Success Study, completed in late-2012, NORC studied HAA Scholars who were currently enrolled in college in pursuit of an undergraduate degree, as well as Alumni Scholars who were no longer in college. By analyzing primary survey data, results provided new information on the conditions and experiences that determine educational, occupational, and life success among HAA Scholarship Award Recipients. An important aspect of Phase Two was in identifying which program resources received by HAA Scholars, along with Scholars’ own unique set of educational experiences, explain differential levels of educational, career, and interpersonal success during college and beyond.

Plans for future phases of the Success Study include assessing the overall effectiveness of the HAA Scholarship Program by examining differences between HAA Scholars and comparable non-recipients (i.e., program applicants who were ultimately not selected as HAA Scholars as well as non-applicant populations) across a range of educational, career, and life outcomes spanning both personal and professional domains. This multiphase study holds promise for improving understanding of how success unfolds over the life course at multiple points in time, from the students’ lives prior to applying for the program to the years following college graduation, and the role the HAA Scholarship Program plays in fostering success among scholarship recipients.


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