Washington State Institute for Public Policy
Mentoring for students: community-based (with volunteer costs)
Public Health & Prevention: Community-based
Benefit-cost estimates updated May 2017.  Literature review updated June 2014.
In community-based mentoring programs, volunteer adults are paired with at-risk middle and high school students to meet weekly at locations of their choosing for relationship building and guidance. Community-based organizations provide the adult mentors with training and oversight. Mentors are expected to build relationships with mentees with the aim of improving a variety of outcomes including crime rates, academic achievement, and substance abuse. This analysis includes evaluation findings for (in no particular order) the Washington State Mentors program, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Across Ages, Sponsor-a-Scholar, Career Beginnings, the Buddy System, and other, locally developed programs.
The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2016). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $4,410 Benefits minus costs $10,277
Participants $7,434 Benefit to cost ratio $4.11
Others $3,057 Chance the program will produce
Indirect ($1,325) benefits greater than the costs 67 %
Total benefits $13,576
Net program cost ($3,299)
Benefits minus cost $10,277
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Benefits from changes to:1 Benefits to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Crime $157 $0 $391 $79 $627
Labor market earnings associated with high school graduation $3,756 $8,271 $3,814 $0 $15,840
K-12 grade repetition $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Property loss associated with alcohol abuse or dependence $0 $1 $1 $0 $2
Health care associated with educational attainment $892 ($244) ($972) $449 $126
Costs of higher education ($394) ($594) ($178) ($198) ($1,363)
Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($1,656) ($1,656)
Totals $4,410 $7,434 $3,057 ($1,325) $13,576
Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $2,748 2005 Present value of net program costs (in 2016 dollars) ($3,299)
Comparison costs $0 2005 Cost range (+ or -) 10 %
The effects of this program represent one year of mentoring. Per-participant cost estimates are based on the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program as described in Herrera, C., Grossman, J.B., Kauh, T.J., Feldman, A.F., & McMaken, J. (2007). Making a difference in schools: The Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based mentoring impact study. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures. The cost of volunteer time is based on the Office of Financial Management State Data Book average adult salary for 2012 multiplied by 1.44 to account for benefits. In the evaluated community-based programs, mentors meet with mentees, on average, once per week over the course of one year. Cost estimates exclude donated space.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Estimated Cumulative Net Benefits Over Time (Non-Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in non-discounted dollars to simplify the “break-even” point from a budgeting perspective. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Primary or secondary participant No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes (ES) and standard errors (SE) used in the benefit-cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
Alcohol use before end of middle school 1 76 -0.037 0.224 14 -0.037 0.224 24 -0.119 0.596
Cannabis use before end of middle school 1 76 -0.081 0.224 14 -0.081 0.224 24 -0.260 0.246
Crime 5 1542 -0.021 0.044 14 -0.021 0.044 24 -0.014 0.828
Grade point average^ 5 1157 0.077 0.043 14 0.077 0.043 14 0.095 0.028
High school graduation 2 758 0.101 0.143 18 0.101 0.143 18 0.293 0.040
Illicit drug use before end of middle school 2 722 -0.379 0.137 14 -0.379 0.137 15 -0.390 0.004
Illicit drug use in high school 1 43 -0.352 0.224 17 -0.352 0.224 18 -0.352 0.117
Major depressive disorder 1 348 -0.140 0.076 14 0.000 0.013 15 -0.140 0.066
School attendance^ 3 911 0.156 0.048 14 0.156 0.048 14 0.162 0.001
Smoking in high school 1 43 -0.212 0.223 17 -0.212 0.223 18 -0.212 0.343
Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Aseltine, R.H., Dupre, M., & Lamlein, P. (2000). Mentoring as a drug prevention strategy: An evaluation of across ages. Adolescent and Family Health, 1(1), 11-20.

Buman, B., & Cain, R. (1991). The impact of short term, work oriented mentoring on the employability of low-income youth. (Available from Minneapolis Employment and Training Program, Minneapolis, MN).

Cave, G., & Quint, J. (1990). Career Beginnings impact evaluation: Findings from a program for disadvantaged high school students. New York: MDRC.

Fo, W.S.O., & O'Donnell, C.R. (1979). The Buddy System: Relationship and contingency conditions in a community intervention program for youth with nonprofessionals as behavior change agents. In J. S. Stumphauzer (Ed.), Progress in behavior therapy with delinquents (pp.302-316). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Grossman, J.B., & Tierney, J.P. (1998). Does mentoring work? An impact study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Evaluation Review, 22(3), 403-426.

Hanlon, T.E., Bateman, R.W., Simon, B.D., O'Grady, K.E., & Carswell, S.B. (2002). An early community-based intervention for the prevention of substance abuse and other delinquent behavior. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 31(6), 459-471.

Harmon, M.A. (1996). Reducing drug use among pregnant and parenting teens: A program evaluation and theoretical examination. Dissertation Abstracts International, 56(08), 3319A.

Herrera, C., DubBois, D.L., & Grossman, J.B. (2013). The Role of Risk: Mentoring Experiences and Outcomes for Youth with Varying Risk Profiles. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures, MDRC.

Johnson, A. (1999). Sponsor-a-Scholar: Long-term impacts of a youth mentoring program on student performance (Document No. PR99-99). Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.

O'Donnell, C.R., Lydgate, T., & Fo, W.S.O. (1979). The Buddy System: Review and follow-up. Child Behavior Therapy, 1, 161-169.

For more information on the methods
used please see our Technical Documentation.