Research Report Evaluation of the Urban Alliance High School Internship Program
Brett Theodos, Michael Pergamit, Devlin Hanson, Daniel Teles, Matthew Gerken, Katherine Thomas, Shannon Gedo, Jein Park
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To build evidence on programs and support services that connect young people to college resources and opportunities, the Urban Institute was commissioned to conduct an impact evaluation of Urban Alliance’s High School Internship Program.

The program provides year-round training, paid internships, mentoring, and intensive supports to aid young adults’ post–high school transition to education and employment. This report builds on our prior randomized controlled trial (RCT) impact evaluation of the Urban Alliance program. The report presents interim findings from a second RCT—an expanded four-site impact and process evaluation conducted five years after the first.

Why This Matters

Young people can benefit substantially from support and mentorship to succeed in their post–high school years. Support can come in many different forms—from family, friends, mentors, and schools, as well as from nonprofit organizations whose work complements these support systems. Since its founding in 1996, Urban Alliance has placed more than 6,000 young people in paid, professional internships. We set out to estimate the impact of the Urban Alliance internship program on education and job preparation, college enrollment, and employment for its participants.

Key Takeaways

  • Urban Alliance led to a rise in applications to two-year colleges, but no increase in college applications overall, other education preparation outcomes, or the quality of higher education institutions participants attended.
  • Urban Alliance did positively affect certain employment and economic measures. These include participants’ job preparation, the share of young people with a job, and the share with a checking or savings account. But we do not find evidence that Urban Alliance increased the connection of participants after high school, meaning the share of youth working or attending school.
  • Subgroup analyses suggest impacts varies by region. However, we do not find the considerable differences in impact by gender that we found in the previous RCT study.

Based on these findings, there are a few implications for practice and policy:

  • Now in its 25th year, the Urban Alliance High School Internship program is successfully expanding while remaining true to its core design. But the environment in which it operates is now different.
  • Policymakers and school administrators now increasingly recognize the value of the types of services and supports Urban Alliance offers and are more likely to provide them themselves. This may explain why this study does not detect an impact of the Urban Alliance program on certain metrics.
  • We will assess longer-term impacts of the program in a subsequent report.

How We Did It

We conducted this evaluation using an RCT. We randomized applicants in the 2016–17 and 2017–18 program years across four regions in which Urban Alliance operates: Baltimore, Chicago, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC. We then compared outcomes for the treated and control group young people using a variety of sources including survey, program, high school, and college data.

Research Areas Children and youth Greater DC
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population
Research Methods Data analysis Quantitative data analysis
States Illinois Maryland Virginia District of Columbia
Cities Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV