Putting higher education access programs to the test - SRDC

Putting higher education access programs to the test

August 25, 2014


Today, Social Research and Demonstration Corporation releases new results for the Future to Discover and BC AVID demonstration projects. These long-term studies, initially funded by the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, tested programs intended to increase the participation of specific groups in university and college studies.

Both Future to Discover and BC AVID were randomized controlled trials – offering the most rigorous method to evaluate a program’s impact. The two projects together involved the participation of close to 7,000 students in three provinces.

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Future to Discover included two programs that were tested separately and in combination. Explore Your Horizons consisted of career education workshops run after school in Grades 10, 11, and 12. Learning Accounts provided grants of up to $8,000 to pursue post-secondary studies, contingent upon successful completion of each year of secondary school. Each program and the combination of the two significantly increased post-secondary enrolment among groups of students less likely to continue their studies beyond high school. The study released today also shows that Learning Accounts generated striking impacts on post-secondary graduation rates.

Future to Discover began with two successive grade 10 classes in New Brunswick and Manitoba. Explore Your Horizons was tested in both provinces, Learning Accounts only in New Brunswick. The original study, completed in 2012, followed participants through their second year after high school. In 2013, the government of New Brunswick requested that SRDC follow participants in that province for an additional four years. Results from the first two years of the extended study provide an initial look at the impact of the programs on post-secondary graduation rates.

The impacts on graduation rates differed for the two programs, corresponding to their earlier impacts on enrolment. Learning Accounts (the $8,000 grant) had greater impacts on college enrolment rates, where programs are generally shorter in length. The impacts on post-secondary graduation rates were exceptional: Learning Accounts almost doubled the post-secondary graduation rate of students from families with lower-education backgrounds.

Explore Your Horizons (career education workshops) induced more students to enrol in university programs, which are typically longer in length. Thus while the program increased post-secondary participation rates, it has not yet resulted in a significant impact on post-secondary graduation rates, as of the fourth year after high school.

Read the August 2014 Future to Discover Fourth Year Post-secondary Impacts Report.

Read the Executive Summary of the 2012 Future to Discover Post-secondary Impacts Report.

Read the 2012 Future to Discover Post-secondary Impacts Report.



BC AVID tested the implementation in British Columbia of a proprietary program implemented widely in the United States – Advancement Via Individual Determination. AVID focuses on helping middle-achieving students reach their academic potential. In the study, the AVID program achieved the intermediate objectives of increasing participants’ study skills, organizational skills and selection of demanding high school courses. However, it did not have an impact on their enrolment in university or college programs in the two years following high school.

BC AVID identified groups of middle-achieving students in grade 8 and offered them the opportunity to enrol in AVID elective courses in each year of high school. AVID courses have three components: the study and organizational skills curriculum, subject matter tutorials, and motivational activities. All the components promote the idea that post-secondary education is attainable and best achieved by a rigorous program of high school studies.

The AVID program increased the proportion of students taking higher-level math. It had little effect on the proportion taking provincially-examined science and English courses, and varying effects on grades. The program reduced the drop-out rate among boys from 11% to 5%. It had no impact on the proportion of students applying to or enrolling in university or college programs.

Read the Executive Summary of the BC AVID Pilot Post-secondary Impacts Report.

Read the BC AVID Pilot Post-secondary Impacts Report.


The combined results of these studies highlight how different programs can affect the decision to pursue university or college studies. Financial incentives like Learning Accounts can break down perceived monetary hurdles. Career exploration programs like Explore Your Horizons can clearly demonstrate the benefits and accessibility of post-secondary options. While BC AVID provided students with the study practices and prerequisites for post-secondary studies, this particular trial did not result in an increase in post-secondary attendance.


For more information on Future to Discover or BC AVID, please contact:

Reuben Ford (English inquiries)
Research director, SRDC
[email protected]

Jean-Pierre Voyer (French inquiries)
SRDC President and CEO
[email protected]

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