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Title: Lost in Transition: Evaluating the Impact of a Summer Bridge Program on the Educational Achievement Gap at an Elite University
Authors: Weinstein, Jenna
Advisors: Lord, Graham
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: Historically underserved students, including low-income, first-generation, and minority students, face impediments to success at every stage of the college process: application, admission, enrollment, and performance. Many of the challenges they face are exaggerated at highly selective postsecondary institutions. One approach undertaken by colleges and universities to improve the outcomes of disadvantaged students is a summer bridge program. These prefreshman transitional programs seek to increase the likelihood of participants’ success in college. Though many programs are in operation at institutions across the country, evaluations of these programs are limited. In this thesis, I analyzed a summer program at an elite university, the Freshman Scholars Institute (FSI) at Princeton University. I conducted an observational study, taking advantage of a natural experiment, due to the invitation-only but non-mandatory nature of the program. Using multiple regression analysis, I compared the outcomes of program participants with two groups of similar non-participants, one identified by the University via the invitation to FSI and the other identified through propensity-score matching based on observed pre-college characteristics, as well a sample of the general student body. On average, participants in FSI had statistically significantly lower levels of academic performance throughout college, compared to both the more advantaged non-participants and the non-participants from similar backgrounds. After controlling for pre-college and college factors, participation in FSI was still associated with a decrease in GPA relative to the other groups of students. I consider possible explanations for these findings and discuss relevant policy implications based on the results. Overall, this thesis establishes a need for further research and revision of summer bridge programs, in general, and at Princeton, specifically.
Extent: 148 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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