New Success Boston report shows “positive and large” results of coaching for participating college students

Changing Boston

March 23, 2017

Students coached through the initiative outperform their peers in all of the report’s measures.

BOSTON, Massachusetts (March 23, 2017) –A new report prepared for the Success Boston College Completion Initiative by the research firm Abt Associates shows that graduates of the Boston Public Schools who are receiving coaching through the initiative have a significant advantage over other students. Success Boston coached students are 11% more likely than non-coached peers to persist into the second year of college and 21% more likely to persist into the third year of college. Coached students also have a college grade point average (GPA) that is 8% higher than non-coached students and spend 10% more time in good academic standing. In addition, coached students are 9% more likely to navigate their way through the financial aid process, which can ease the burden of the cost of higher education. (For more detailed information about the research, download the Interim Outcomes Report and the Implementation Report.)

Because of its rigorous design, the new study provides causal evidence that these differences in outcomes are in fact due to the students’ participation in coaching. According to the authors of the report, the effects of coaching can be characterized as “positive and large.”

The Success Boston initiative was launched in 2008 to improve the college success of Boston public high school graduates, particularly those in groups traditionally underrepresented in college degree attainment, including first generation students. Higher college graduation rates increase access to employment in such local industries as technology, financial services, higher education and medical sectors that routinely require advanced training.

Success Boston is a partnership of the Boston Foundation, the City of Boston, the Boston Public Schools (BPS), 37 area institutions of higher education, led by University of Massachusetts Boston and Bunker Hill Community College, and local nonprofit partners, including the Boston Private Industry Council and uAspire, which provides financial advice to students.

Less than a year ago, in June of 2016, another report by Abt Associates and the Boston Private Industry Council showed a steady increase in the overall college completion rates for BPS graduates—from 35% for the BPS Class of 2000 to 51.3% for the class of 2009, within one percentage point of the 52% goal set by Success Boston in 2008.

“Last year’s news of higher college completion rates was a promising sign that Success Boston coaching is working for graduates of our public schools,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “This report shows the tremendous power of coaching to prepare students for success in college and the numerous job opportunities this city offers college graduates. It could not be more encouraging to all of the Success Boston partners.”

Mayor Walsh has embraced the Success Boston initiative, making him one of the few mayors in the country to focus on the success of students after they leave a city’s public education system and move on to higher education and beyond. The initiative originally was launched by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and a number of other concerned partners in response to a 2008 report that drew attention to the low college completion rates of BPS graduates.

“There are real shortages of talented, degree-holding workers in many business sectors that are crucial to our economic health,” said Kenneth C. Montgomery, President and COO of Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “This report is yet another encouraging sign that when our city comes together to support our graduates and help them advance to college, we all win.” Montgomery is Chair of the Boston Private Industry Council, which is one of the partners in Success Boston.

By offering academic programming and college advising activities in high school, one-on-one coaching support as students move into and through the first two years of college, and close collaboration with local higher education institutions, Success Boston aims to help BPS graduates earn degrees and enter the local workforce successfully. The Boston Foundation funds and supports the nonprofit organizations that provide the one-on-one coaching for students. In 2014, the Boston Foundation received a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to expand its work. The $6 million Social Innovation Fund award gives the Foundation the resources necessary to expand Success Boston’s coaching model from serving 300 to 1,000 students from each of the BPS classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Success Boston coaches support students throughout the academic year, offering on-demand guidance to help prepare them to navigate, increasingly independently, through college to graduation. Coaches provide support for life skills, study skills and academic achievement. They help students develop meaningful relationships, clarify goals, access networks, understand college culture and make college life feasible for participants. Coaches also provide job and career mentoring.

“There is a tremendous amount of opportunity, especially in our region, for those who are prepared to take advantage of it and an unacceptable lack of opportunity for everyone else,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “In addition to the importance of offering equal opportunity to all of our city’s young people, graduates of Boston’s public schools represent a valuable resource that we cannot afford to waste.”


The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the largest community foundations in the nation, with net assets of some $1 billion. In 2016, the Foundation and its donors made $100 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of more than $107 million. In celebration of its Centennial in 2015, the Boston Foundation launched the ongoing Campaign for Boston to strengthen the Permanent Fund for Boston, the principal endowment fund focused on the most pressing needs of Greater Boston. The Foundation is proud to be a partner in philanthropy, with more than 1,000 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes. The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, think tank and advocacy organization, commissioning research into the most critical issues of our time and helping to shape public policy designed to advance opportunity for everyone in Greater Boston. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), a distinct operating unit of the Foundation, designs and implements customized philanthropic strategies for families, foundations and corporations around the globe. For more information about the Boston Foundation and TPI, visit or call 617-338-1700.