Bottom Line is a national education organization that is addressing the degree divide by providing individualized academic, personal, financial, and career counseling to empower first-generation students from low-income backgrounds to enroll in and succeed through college. The organization is committed to building strong connections with students by providing them with individualized support. Students receive one-on-one advising through the college application and decision process during 12th grade and then ongoing counseling through college for up to six years.
Why We Invested
National data have shown that 80 percent of Bottom Line students who enroll in a four-year college earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, compared to an attainment rate of 46 percent for similar students. Bottom Line expects its students to earn a bachelor’s degree, accumulate no more than $36,000 in debt, and be employed or continuing their education six months after graduation. Bottom Line’s national management team and Chicago founding executive director are highly capable leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to program quality and evaluation. Bottom Line has grown from supporting 25 high school seniors in 1997 to currently serving over 8,000 students in Boston, Worcester, New York City and Chicago. This growth is enabled by Bottom Line’s cost-efficient model and partnerships.
Since A Better Chicago’s first investment in Bottom Line Chicago (BLC) in 2014, the organization has become a college access and success leader in the city given its strong student outcomes, steady leadership, local philanthropic support, and deliberate ability to scale. Recently, BLC has advanced key priorities from a national strategic plan launched in 2019, including exploring model iterations, integrating technology into student supports, and improving program quality. BLC will continue to prioritize this work going forward. It is also launching career development initiatives to support students with navigating the job search. BLC launched with 150 students in 2014 and has grown to serve 1,571 in 2020. BLC is prioritizing increasing recruitment among 12th graders, understanding that supporting these students in making well-informed college decisions is important for long-term college success.
- Public Relations: Bottom Line Chicago (BLC) hired a consultant to support public relations efforts by writing stories, pitching to media outlets for strategic media placement and consulting on BLC’s local narrative and story ideas. A Better Chicago helped scope the project, introduced Bottom Line Chicago to vetted consultants and covered 50 percent of the fees.
- Market Research: BLC worked with a consultant to conduct market research on college access and persistence programming in Chicago. A Better Chicago helped scope the project, introduced BLC to vetted consultants, and covered 75 percent of the fees.
- Leadership Development: BLC’s leadership team participated in Leading for Impact®, a cohort-driven leadership development program run by The Bridgespan Group. A Better Chicago covered 50 percent of the fees.