National Evaluation of Upward Bound

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Education

Policymakers have long been concerned about the disparities in college attendance between more and less advantaged groups of high school students. Upward Bound is one of the largest and longest-running federal programs designed to help disadvantaged students prepare for, enter, and succeed in college.

In 1991, the U.S. Department of Education launched the National Evaluation of Upward Bound. The evaluation included an implementation study and an experimental impact study of the regular Upward Bound program as well as a quasi-experimental impact study of the Upward Bound Math-Science program.

Impacts of Regular Upward Bound

This impact study was based on a random assignment design implemented in a nationally representative sample of 67 Upward Bound projects hosted by two- and four-year colleges and universities. Study enrollment occurred from 1992 to 1994. About 1,500 students were randomly assigned to a treatment group, and about 1,300 were assigned to a control group. The study team used follow-up surveys, secondary and postsecondary transcripts, and other administrative records to track student progress through high school and seven to nine years after expected high school graduation. Mathematica compared the experiences of the treatment and control group members to assess the effects of regular Upward Bound on high school and postsecondary outcomes. The evaluation found statistically significant increases in high school mathematics credits and the likelihood of earning a postsecondary certificate or license from a vocational school, but no detectable effects on other high school outcomes, including graduation and grades, or other postsecondary outcomes, including enrollment, financial aid application or receipt, or the completion of bachelor’s or associate’s degrees.

Impacts of Upward Bound Math-Science

This impact study was designed to measure the effects of participating in Upward Bound Math-Science on college enrollment, choice of major, and other outcomes for students who participated during the summer of 1993, 1994 or 1995. Findings are based on participant surveys and student transcripts collected between 1998 and 1999, and again between 2001 and 2002. The evaluation found that Upward Bound Math-Science provided intensive academic instruction in math and science, and impact estimates suggest that it increased enrollment at four-year postsecondary institutions, math and science course-taking, and completion of a four-year degree.