Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Partnering with students to get into and graduate from college: Bottom Line is a college access and success program that advises low-income, first-generation students on applying to, selecting, and enrolling in a college. Once in college, Bottom Line provides individualized academic, social, and career services to students.

  • Partnering with high schools and colleges: To build a strong recruitment pipeline and better advise students on navigating the school environment, Bottom Line builds formal relationships with the high schools and colleges it works with.

  • Starting in high school: Bottom Line recruits students through word-of-mouth and referrals from school counselors and community organizations. Starting at the end of their junior year or start of their senior year, students work with a Bottom Line Advisor, who guides them in creating college lists, completing their applications, applying for and analyzing financial aid, and making an informed decision on where to enroll.

  • Continuing through college: After students transition into college, they receive individualized support from a Bottom Line Advisor to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to persist in and graduate from college. Examples of this support include peer support groups, assistance with housing and class registration, and help finding a career path.

Cost per Participant
Approximately $4,000 per offered student

Two studies with rigorous designs show that Bottom Line is a well-supported strategy for improving college access and persistence.  

  • A 2021 randomized controlled trial found that Bottom Line students were 6.2 percentage points more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree within four years, and 9.6 percentage points more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, than those in the control group. 

  • 2017 randomized controlled trial found that Bottom Line participants were 10.3 percentage points more likely to enroll in a four-year college and 9.9 percentage points more likely to be continuously enrolled in college for three semesters than individuals in the control group.

  • Build relationships with referral partners: When high school students begin working with Bottom Line by the beginning of their senior year, they can be more successful in accessing and graduating from college. Building relationships with public schools, community-based organizations, and other referral partners helps Bottom Line identify and recruit motivated students earlier.

  • Formalize partnerships with colleges: Applying to, selecting, and enrolling in a college can be a complicated process, especially for students whose family members have not attended college before. By building relationships and becoming familiar with area colleges, Bottom Line advisors are better able to help students navigate the process and find a school that fits their individual needs.

  • Support advisor-advisee relationships: When Advisors develop deep relationships with their students, they build the type of trust that undergirds the effectiveness of the program. As such, hiring strong Advisors, offering them proper training, and ensuring their caseloads are manageable are central to Bottom Line’s success.

  • Emphasize data and evaluation: Bottom Line has a deep commitment to data, evidence, and evaluation, which has helped the organization demonstrate its effectiveness and identify opportunities to continuously improve its services. This approach has helped Bottom Line build trust and support among public and philanthropic funders.