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College Mentoring Programs Evaluation

2K3A3JC Male college professor helping student at laptop in classroom
Assessing ways to increase college completion rates for historically underserved students
  • Client
    ECMC Foundation
  • Dates
    2018 - 2021


Advocates for college equity needed an assessment of mentoring programs’ impact. 

A college degree can significantly enhance an individual’s employment and lifetime earning potential. But this life-changing opportunity is less available to historically underrepresented students, who enter higher education and graduate at lower rates. Mentoring programs exist to help close the college gap for students of color from low-income and marginalized communities, but not enough is known about which types of programs and supports are most effective.  


NORC took a deep dive into three college mentoring programs.

To address the problem of unequal college access and completion, NORC at the University of Chicago undertook a first-of-its-kind study for the ECMC Foundation to explore what kinds of mentoring services are the most promising. The findings will inform ECMC’s funding decisions. 

NORC first conducted a literature scan of existing college mentoring programs and coaching services for students from underserved backgrounds. Next, NORC looked closely at three ECMC grantee mentoring programs, each with a different approach:

  • College Crusade of Rhode Island offers face-to-face mentoring.
  • Beyond 12 provides virtual mentoring.
  • One Million Degrees provides a hybrid mentoring model with both face-to-face and virtual components.

Using retrospective administrative data, including comparisons to students not in mentoring programs, NORC set out to determine how the main components of each program predict student success. NORC also wanted to know if impacts vary by student population and how much the program's intensity influences results.


NORC’s research provides solid evidence that mentoring programs aid success.

The study found that student persistence in two-year programs using virtual and hybrid delivery modes is associated with increased persistence rates. The virtual model is associated with substantial positive impacts on two-year degree program completion. Program staff and students report that a good relationship between mentor and mentee is vital to successful outcomes. Ideally, the mentor provides the mentee with the agency, support, and confidence to solve problems on their own so they can succeed in college. 

The most effective programs are well-funded, offer comprehensive support, and maintain frequent, close communication with students. Developing a universally recognized definition of mentoring would be helpful.

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