Senior year of high school can be a pivotal time in a young person’s life. For some, it is the last step on the path to college and work. For others, finding stable employment or attending university after high school is far from guaranteed.
Urban Alliance, headquartered in Washington, DC, helps students at risk of becoming disconnected from work or school transition to higher education or employment after high school. Through its High School Internship Program, it offers participating high school seniors training, an internship, and mentoring to help them succeed.
The Urban Institute recently completed an evaluation of the program in Washington, DC, and Baltimore. Using an experimental design, the study revealed several key findings approximately two years after high school.
Students who applied to the program had high graduation rates, but the program increased the probability of graduating from high school for males in the treatment group compared with males in the control group. But for students with a grade point average (GPA) from 2.0 to 3.0 (i.e., middle-GPA students), we found that students who completed the program were more likely to be chronically absent senior year compared with students in the control group.
Participants self-reported more comfort than the control group with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and applying for other scholarships after one year with Urban Alliance. Male participants were more likely to apply to college, but female participants had similar application rates to their comparison counterparts. The program did not have a significant impact on other measures of college preparation, such as taking the SAT or ACT.
In estimating the impact Urban Alliance had on developing hard skills (e.g., Microsoft Excel basics, filing) and soft skills (e.g., speaking with adult coworkers, writing professional e-mails, getting to work on time) among students, we found positive and significant impacts at the one-year mark on the persistence of hard and soft skill comfort.
The program had positive and significant impacts on youth comfort with soft skills one and two years after expected graduation. For males, the program had a strong and positive impact on comfort with soft skills at the one-year mark, and the effect increased by the two-year mark.
Educational Attainment and Employment
We explored how well Urban Alliance prepares youth for postsecondary education and employment by assessing measures of college enrollment, the quality of colleges attended, and persistence at college.
We found impacts on college enrollment and persistence for certain subgroups, particularly for males. The Urban Alliance program increased the probability of college enrollment 12 percentage points for males offered the program and 23 percentage points for males who completed the program. In general, females have higher rates of college enrollment than do males. The program increased male enrollment to the level achieved by females.
The program also increased the probability of attaining a two-year degree or being enrolled in a third year in college 10 percentage points for males offered the program and 21 percentage points for males who completed the program.
For middle-GPA students, those offered the program were 9 percentage points more likely to attend a four-year college than the control group, and those who completed the internship were 17 percentage points more likely to attend a four-year college.
Participation in Urban Alliance decreased the probability of having a job for males at the one-year mark, though not at the two-year mark. This finding suggests that Urban Alliance encouraged males to attend college, not enter the workforce, after graduating from high school.