Abstract: Examining the Effectiveness of a College Access Program for Black and Latinx Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Examining the Effectiveness of a College Access Program for Black and Latinx Youth

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Adrian Gale, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Alicia Mendez, MSW, Doctoral Student, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

Access to a college education is viewed as a pathway to improve the life outcomes of youth from impoverished backgrounds. In response to widening disparities in college attainment among racial and ethnic minorities, many universities have developed college access programs and pipeline programs. These programs seek to address disparities in college access by providing academically promising youth from impoverished backgrounds with social, academic and financial assistance. While programs aimed at increasing college access for ethnic and racial minorities target various academic indicators for improvement (e.g., GPA), non-academic outcomes such as mental health and well-being are also critical. A focus on non-academic outcomes is important because these foundational skills are thought to be pivotal in students’ development academic skills.

In this study, we performed an initial evaluation of a college access program, CAP, which recruits Black and Latinx youth from low-income backgrounds during the beginning of middle school. Students eligible for CAP enter the program as rising 8th graders (i.e., summer before 8th grade year) and programming including: mentoring, college visits and social enrichment programming through 12th grade. We utilized cross sectional data from CAP to examine whether the non-academic outcomes of newly admitted CAP students (i.e., rising 8th graders) were significantly different to CAP students in 12th graders who had three years of CAP programming.


Data for this study were taken from a sample of participants from CAP, a college access and pipeline program that recruits public middle schools in low-income and urban areas in an Eastern state in the U.S. We examined data from participants in 8th grade (n = 187) and in 12th grade (n = 113) and focused on eight non-academic outcomes (i.e., future orientation, future college going, confidence in academic abilities, GRIT, critical thinking, communication, self-efficacy).


Preliminary results from Analysis of Variance yielded mixed results. Although we did not uncover statistically significant differences in students’ future orientation, future college going, or self-efficacy between 8th and 12th grade, we found that 12th graders had significantly higher GRIT (F(1, 276) = 5.982, p=.015), critical thinking (F(1, 273) = 4.459, p=.036) and communication (F(1, 273) = 7.018, p=.009) scores than their 8th grade counterparts, suggesting that CAP may have had a positive impact on these outcomes. Interestingly, confidence in academic abilities was higher in 8th graders than for 12th graders (F(1, 276) = 4.458, p=.06).

Conclusion and Implications:

The current pattern of results indicate that CAP may be related improvements in a number of non-academic outcomes for students. In particular, GRIT, critical thinking and communication are all important skills found to be higher in 12thgrade. This may be positive sign for the development of important academic skills and academic performance overall. However, we interpret our results with caution due to the cross sectional nature of the data. In the future, we plan to follow CAP students longitudinally to investigate the hypothesized link between non-academic as well as academic skills. Implications for college access, ethnic and racially minority academic performance and non-academic outcomes are discussed.