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Stanford study shows college student coaching improves retention and graduation rates

Coaching is one of the more cost effective ways to improve retention and graduation rates, according to a new study by Eric Bettinger and doctoral student Rachel Baker.

Assoc. Prof. Eric Bettinger
Assoc. Prof. Eric Bettinger

MARCH 10, 2011


CONTACT:  Amy Yuen, Communications Manager, Stanford University School of Education, (650) 724-9440,

COMMENT:  Eric Bettinger, Associate Professor of Education, Stanford University School of Education, (650) 736-7727,

STANFORD –Student coaching significantly increases the likelihood that college students will stay in school and graduate, according to a new study released today by researchers at Stanford University School of Education.

The study, conducted by Stanford University Associate Professor Eric Bettinger and doctoral student Rachel Baker, reviewed the academic records of more than 13,500 students from eight colleges and universities across the 2003-4 and 2007-8 academic years. The researchers compared randomly selected, demographically balanced groups of coached vs. non-coached students, and found a 10 -to 15-percent increase in retention and graduation rates among those in the coached group. Bettinger and Baker measured student outcomes using data provided by InsideTrack, a national student coaching company.

“The results are clear:  coaching had a clear impact on retention and completion rates,” Bettinger said.  “And not only does coaching improve the likelihood students will remain in college, but expenditures on coaching are much smaller than the costs of other methods to encourage persistence in college.”

Bettinger and Baker announced their findings Thursday through the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website.  Following a randomization process, 8,000 of the students received one-on-one coaching and 5,500 did not. The universities participating in the study provided data on student persistence after six, 12, 18 and 24 months.  Degree completion data was also provided for a subsample of students in the earlier sample year.

Other research results included:

  •  Increased retention rates in the coached groups across all of the time frames following the students’ enrollment:

    After six months, the coached student group led the non-coached group in retention by about 10 percent. After 12 months, the coached group led by nearly 12 percent.  The coached group also led at 18 months and 24 months, by 15 and 14 percent, respectively. The results were consistent when the researchers controlled for age, gender, SAT or ACT scores, high-school GPA, and scholarships and grants.
  • Graduation rates were 13 percent higher for coached students in the subsample where completion rate information was available.

“The research about the effects of coaching has implications for institutions of higher learning and for the policymakers at the state and national level who are grappling with improving retention and graduation rates," Bettinger said.

Bettinger, who has studied the effects of financial aid on college retention, also found that student coaching appears to be cost effective.  For instance, Bettinger said, a $1,000 increase in financial aid typically increases persistence by three percentage points, while a two-semester investment in one-on-one coaching costs about the same and increases persistence by five percentage points.

“Coaching not only works, but it appears to be one of the more cost effective ways to produce better retention and graduation rates,” Bettinger said.

For more information about the research results, please see “The Effects of Student Coaching: An Evaluation of a Randomized Experiment in Student Advising,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper at The paper is also available to NBER subscribers at  




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