Bottom Line is a national education organization that is addressing the degree divide by providing academic, personal and financial counselling to empower low-income, first-generation students to attend and succeed in college. The organization is committed to building strong connections with students by providing them with individualized support. Students receive an advisor starting in the summer before 12th grade and are supported through college for up to six years to ensure they have the guidance they need to attend college and persist through college graduation.
Why We Invested
Bottom Line Chicago is equipping first generation, low-income students to succeed in college. National data shows that 80 percent of Bottom Line students who enroll in a four-year college earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, which compares 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 an unwavering commitment to program quality and evaluation. Bottom Line has grown from supporting 25 high school seniors in 1997 to currently serving nearly 7,700 students in Boston, Worcester, New York City and most recently Chicago. This growth is enabled by Bottom Line’s cost-efficient model and partnerships.
Over the past four years, Bottom Line Chicago (BLC) has established itself as a key player in the college access and persistence space. BLC launched with 150 students in 2014 and is on track to serve nearly 1,400 students in 2019. By 2021, the organization aims to reach over 2,000 students annually. Bottom Line is currently undergoing a seven-year randomized controlled trial, the gold standard for program evaluation, to study whether the program impacts the overall rate at which students enroll in college. Early results demonstrate significant impacts on Bottom Line students’ college enrollment and persistence. Additionally, it found that Bottom Line students are 10 percentage points more likely to be continuously enrolled in college than the control group. Early findings suggest that the program effects are consistent across student sub-groups and advisors, suggesting that the model can maintain its positive impact with diverse populations in numerous settings.
Management Support Highlights
- Public Relations: 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 hired 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 is participating in Leading for Impact®, a cohort-driven leadership development program run by The Bridgespan Group. A Better Chicago is covering 50 percent of the fees.