ATLANTA — Achieve Atlanta’s scholarship and support services lead to substantial increases in college persistence and completion rates for students compared to similar students who did not receive this aid. According to new research by Georgia State University’s Georgia Policy Labs, students experiencing low income who receive the scholarship and support are 11.1 percentage points more likely to persist to their second semester in college.
The improved college persistence differential remains in subsequent semesters. And the four-year college graduation rate for Achieve Atlanta’s first cohort of scholars is 4.6 percentage points higher than similar non-scholars.
The positive effects are most significant for students eligible for Achieve Atlanta’s scholarship whose grade point average (GPA) is not high enough to qualify for the HOPE or Zell Miller scholarships. These students primarily attend public colleges in Georgia, but many also go out of state. The research does not find that the scholarship significantly changes students’ enrollment or college choices — aligning with prior research on similar programs across the country.
“It’s rare to see education interventions have such a large and lasting effect on college persistence and completion,” Smith said. “These results show the importance and positive impact of a relatively small scholarship and support services on changing students’ trajectories.”
Achieve Atlanta’s place-based scholarship and services target Atlanta Public Schools students — 94 percent of whom are Black or Latino — who are experiencing low income and meet GPA requirements. By the end of 2022, Achieve Atlanta will have 1,000 college graduates who have graduated from Atlanta Public Schools. While there are other place-based scholarships across the nation that have shown promise, Achieve Atlanta’s program is unique in combining a location-specific scholarship with merit- and need-based requirements while providing students with other coaching and individual-level supports.
“We are very excited by the evaluation findings. This independent evaluation report shows that our services have made a statistically significant impact on students’ ability to persist and complete college. The results of this report are proof that Achieve Atlanta’s cross-sector collaboration with our partners' works,” said Tina Fernandez, Achieve Atlanta’s founding executive director. “We are proud of our efforts to help Atlanta Public Schools students access, afford and earn postsecondary credentials. We’ll be examining the results closely and discussing them with our partners to determine what adjustments are needed to further our impact.”
This research is part of a broader research portfolio continuing between Achieve Atlanta and Georgia Policy Labs. Future projects will examine the impacts of the scholarship on student debt and other postsecondary financial outcomes and will include student voices to better understand how they finance their education.
Department of Economics
The research of Jonathan Smith, a faculty fellow with Georgia Policy Labs, focuses on the behavioral and institutional factors that influence college choice and completion, along with the labor market implications. His research is published in leading journals including the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Labor Economics, Journal of Human Resources, and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, and has been featured in numerous media outlets, including the New York Times.