Research Symposium Recap from the NCCEP Capacity Building Workshop

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The Prove Team at NCCEP hosted the first Research Symposium during the 2023 Capacity Building Workshop which provided a space to highlight qualitative and quantitative evaluation studies specific to GEAR UP goals, objectives, services, and outcomes. Xcalibur participated in the Research Symposium and presented with GEAR UP Georgia during the session focused on quantitative studies.

Xcalibur and GEAR UP Georgia shared the findings of a pilot study examining the relationship between GEAR UP Georgia services and postsecondary enrollment for a rural southwest Georgia school district. The study examined longitudinal service participation across four years of high school. Demographic data were collected from school district partners, and postsecondary data were collected from National Student Clearinghouse. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and logistic regression.

The final logistic regression for postsecondary enrollment within one year of high school graduation resulted in two positive and significant predictors for the outcome: gender and financial aid counseling. Student participation in GEAR UP services is an important predictor of postsecondary enrollment within one year of high school graduation. Specifically, participation in financial aid counseling was a significant predictor of college enrollment in this pilot study. This mirrors findings from a multi-state evaluation of GEAR UP Programs (Tillery et al., 2022). 

It is worth noting that the findings from this study are from a single rural southwest Georgia school district and should not be generalized across GEAR UP districts within or outside the state of Georgia. While the results from this pilot study are exciting, future analysis will be needed to examine the impact of service participation on persistence in postsecondary endeavors. Furthermore, a complete study will perform similar analyses on a larger scale using the entire GEAR UP Georgia cohort data to see if the findings remain consistent. 

Future research and analysis of data are encouraged for practitioners to deepen their understanding of the relationship between participation in GEAR UP activities and postsecondary enrollment. Additionally, presenters in the quantitative research session discussed findings exploring the relationship between GEAR UP activities, participation duration, and FAFSA completion. Another grant examined GPA variables and postsecondary outcomes in the session. All presenters emphasized the importance of a detailed data collection plan, operationalized definitions, and sharing findings that support previous research in the field. Further opportunities like the Research Symposium are needed to allow space for grants to discuss their research and evaluation work in an encouraging and productive way.