A Benefit-Cost Analysis of City Connects

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Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education
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comprehensive student support
Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research
Education Economics
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Belfield, Clive R.
Levin, Henry M.
Shand, Robert
Wang, Anyi
Morales, Melisa

Schools have historically and increasingly played an important role in providing services to meet students’ social and emotional, family, health, and academic needs. Coordinating these services in a way that is strategically aligned with a school’s academic mission and that efficiently addresses the needs of all students is often challenging and costly. This study is an initial investigation of Boston College’s City Connects program, which supports students and schools by evaluating the needs of all students in a school and connecting them to services that are largely provided by community partner organizations. The program aims to help students by connecting them with an individualized set of services to address their academic, social/emotional, family, and health needs. The program also aims to assist schools by connecting them with community agencies and service providers, and streamlining student support referral and management to make the process of providing comprehensive approaches to supporting student learning more strategic and efficient. Prior research has shown evidence of effectiveness of City Connects in terms of increased achievement and educational attainment relative to similar schools that have not implemented the program (City Connects Progress Report, 2014; Walsh, et al., 2014a; 2014b). These positive effects must be weighed against the program’s costs in a benefit-cost analysis to determine whether the program is a worthwhile social investment. This report shows that City Connects provides a whole-school comprehensive service at relatively low cost to the schools—schools themselves only bear about 10% of the core costs of the program. However, the methodological complexity of this work is entailed in the estimation of the total cost when considering the partnerships with community organizations. The results show that the total cost of six years of participation in City Connects from kindergarten through fifth grade (the dosage under which effects were measured) is $4,570 per student, which includes a portion of the costs of the community partner services received by the students in City Connects schools. Depending on what share of the community partner services are considered to be above and beyond the baseline level, the total cost estimate can range from $1,540 to $9,320 per student. Under the model that is most plausible based on implementation data, the benefit-cost ratio is 3.0 and the net benefits are $9,280 per student. This result implies that providing the program to a cohort of 100 students over six years would cost society $457,000 but yield $1,385,000 in social benefits, for a net benefit of $928,000. Even under the most conservative assumptions regarding costs and benefits, the program’s benefits exceed its costs. Sensitivity tests show that the benefit-cost ratio lies somewhere between 1 and 11.8, with a best estimate of $3.00 in benefits per dollar of cost. Further research can investigate the relationship between the program, schools, and community partners and how services provided by partners compare in treatment versus comparison schools.

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