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An Economic Evaluation of the Costs and Benefits of Providing Comprehensive Supports to Students in Elementary School


There is growing evidence that out-of-school factors, such as physical and mental health, family support, and social and emotional development, significantly affect student learning (Berliner 2009). To address challenges related to poverty, schools are being charged with serving as a focal point in providing and coordinating support services for students and their families (Adelman and Taylor 2002; Dryfoos 2002). In many schools these support services are provided in fragmented ways that do not address the needs of all students or engage teachers in connecting these services to the academic mission of the school (Walsh and DePaul 2008). An emerging school-based model, broadly termed “comprehensive student support” (Walsh et al. 2016), is designed to overcome such fragmentation. In this paper, we build upon previous effectiveness work with an economic evaluation of a successful support model, City Connects. We find that the benefits of the program exceed the costs, indicating that the program is a sound investment and should be considered an option to address the needs of students and to prevent future crises from disrupting their learning.

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This work was funded by the GHR foundation and the Center for Optimized Student Support at Boston College. The authors of this study were not affiliated with the City Connects program, Boston College, or the GHR foundation and hold no financial interests in these entities or otherwise conflicts of interest.

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Authors and Affiliations



HL, BB, and RS conceived the study. BB lead the design, coordinated the conduct of the study, collected data, performed analyses, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript. RS supported design, developed and piloted instruments, collected data, performed analyses, supported interpretation of the data, and helped draft the manuscript. HL provided expert guidance and supported interpretation and drafting the manuscript. AM and AW collected data, performed analyses, supported interpretation of the data, and helped draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. Brooks Bowden.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This work was conducted under Teachers College, Columbia University IRB Protocol Number 14–312, in accordance with the ethical standards of the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. The data collected here focused on processes, administration, and records, and was considered exempt. Boston Public Schools also approved this work.

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All participants freely agreed to participate in this study and IRB rules were followed to obtain informed consent.

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Bowden, A.B., Shand, R., Levin, H.M. et al. An Economic Evaluation of the Costs and Benefits of Providing Comprehensive Supports to Students in Elementary School. Prev Sci 21, 1126–1135 (2020).

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  • Economic evaluation
  • Induced costs
  • Benefit-cost analysis
  • Comprehensive student support
  • City connects
  • Community-based partnerships