Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Jay Verkuilen

Committee Members

Colin C. Chellman

Keith A. Markus

Subject Categories

Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Educational Psychology


Educational Opportunity Program, Evaluation, SEEK, Outcomes, Higher Education


The Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge (SEEK) program is an educational opportunity program within the City University of New York designed to provide economically and academically disadvantaged students, who otherwise would not have such access, the opportunity to attend college and to succeed once enrolled. However, despite being in existence for a half-century, surprisingly little is known about how the SEEK program contributes to student achievement and success. This study was the first to empirically measure the short- and intermediate-term impacts of this program on student outcomes.

Using propensity scores to match SEEK students to similar non-SEEK students to measure overall programmatic effects, the findings suggest that the SEEK program is associated with significant positive impacts on students’ grade point averages and credits earned in the first year, as well as retention and persistence to the second year. These effects are reduced in year two as non-program participants slightly outperform their SEEK peers in terms of the number of accumulated credits. Retention and persistence rates are also reduced to the third year. The effects associated with participation in the program suggest that visits to the program’s learning center were positively associated with GPAs, earned credits, and retention at all points measured. Visits with students’ assigned counselors, on the other hand, had no effect on most of these same outcomes. These findings and conclusions suggest areas for future research. Policy and programmatic implications are also addressed.