Advertisement

Research in Higher Education

, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 653–681 | Cite as

Does Financial Aid Impact College Student Engagement?

Evidence from the Gates Millennium Scholars Program
  • Angela BoatmanEmail author
  • Bridget Terry Long
Article

Abstract

While increasing numbers of students have gained access to higher education during the last several decades, postsecondary persistence and academic success remain serious concerns with only about half of college entrants completing degrees. Given concerns about affordability and resources, policymakers and administrators wonder how financial aid impacts student outcomes, particularly among low-income students. We investigate this question looking at a range of outcomes beyond just academic performance by focusing on the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program, a generous grant program that provided a renewable scholarship to talented undergraduate students of color with financial need. We isolate the impact of financial aid on academic and community engagement by comparing the outcomes of GMS recipients to similar non-recipients who were likely to have comparably-high levels of motivation and potential for success. With information about the application process, we use similar applicants not selected for the award as a comparison group. We then employ a Regression Discontinuity research design to provide causal estimates of the effects of GMS. The results suggest that GMS recipients were more likely to engage with peers on school work outside of class. Additionally, GMS recipients were much more likely to participate in community service activities and marginally more likely to participate in other extracurricular activities than their non-GMS peers.

Keywords

Financial aid Student engagement College success Community service 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Institute for Higher Education Policy for their support and the data. We also thank Melissa Bert for early help with the data and comments, and participants at the Student Financial Aid Research Network (SFARN) and Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) conferences who provided useful insights on the mechanisms and methodologies in this paper. The views contained herein are not necessarily those of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All errors, omissions, and conclusions are our own.

References

  1. Adelman, C. (2006). The toolbox revisited: Paths to degree completion from high school through college. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.Google Scholar
  2. Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25(4), 297–308.Google Scholar
  3. Astin, A. W., & Sax, L. (1998). How undergraduates are affected by service participation. Journal of College Student Development, 39(3), 251–263.Google Scholar
  4. Astin, A., Sax, L., & Avalos, J. (1999). Long-term effects of volunteerism during the undergraduate years. Review of Higher Education, 22(2), 187–202.Google Scholar
  5. Baker, C. N. (2008). Under-represented college students and extracurricular involvement: The effects of various student organizations on academic performance. Social Psychology of Education, 11(3), 273–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bean, J. P. (1990). Why students leave: Insights from research. In Don Hossler & J. P. Bean (Eds.), The strategic management of college enrollments. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  7. Becker, G. (1964). Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Becker, G. S. (1967). Human capital and the personal distribution of income. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  9. Ben-Porath, Y. (1967). The production of human capital and the life cycle of earnings. Journal of Political Economy, 75, 352–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bettinger, E. (2004). How financial aid affects persistence. In C. M. Hoxby (Ed.), College choices: The economics of where to go, when to go, and how to pay for it. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Board, College. (2012). Trends in college pricing. New York: Sandy Baum and Jennifer Ma.Google Scholar
  12. Campbell, D. E. (2000). Social capital and service learning. PS. Political Science and Politics, 33(3), 641–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Castleman, B. & Long, B. T. (forthcoming). Looking beyond enrollment: The causal effect of need-based grants on college access, persistence, and graduation. Journal of Labor Economics.Google Scholar
  14. Chen, R., & DesJardins, S. (2010). Investigating the impact of financial aid on student dropout risks: Racial and ethnic differences. The Journal of Higher Education, 81(2), 179–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Choy, S. P. (2002). Access & persistence: Findings from 10 years of longitudinal research on students. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.Google Scholar
  16. Darolia, R. (2014). Working (and studying) day and night: Heterogeneous effects of working on the academic performance of full-time and part-time students. Economics of Education Review, 38, 38–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. DeSimone, J. S. (2008). The impact of employment during school on college student academic performance (NBER working paper 14006). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  18. DesJardins, S. L., Ahlburg, D. A., & McCall, B. P. (2002). Simulating the longitudinal effects of changes in financial aid on student departure from college. The Journal of Human Resources, 37(3), 653–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. DesJardins, S. L., & McCall, B. P. (2014). The impact of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program on college and post-college related choices of high ability, low-income minority students. Economics of Education Review, 38, 124–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. DesJardins, S. L., McCall, B. P., Ott, M., & Kim, J. (2010). A quasi-experimental investigation of how the Gates Millennium Scholars Program is related to college students’ time use and activities. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 32(4), 456–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dynarski, S. (2000). Hope for whom? Financial aid for the middle class and its impact on college attendance. National Tax Journal, 53(3), 629–661.Google Scholar
  22. Dynarski, S. (2003). Does aid matter? Measuring the effect of student aid on college attendance and completion. American Economic Review, 93(1), 279–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dynarski, S. (2008). Building the stock of college-educated labor. Journal of Human Resources, 43(3), 576–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dynarski, S. & Scott-Clayton, J. (2013). Financial aid policy: Lessons from research. In L. Barrow, T. Brock, & C. E. Rouse (Eds.), Postsecondary education in the United States (pp. 67–91). Princeton, NJ: The Future of Children, 23(1). Future of Children.Google Scholar
  25. Fischer, M. J. (2007). Settling into campus life: Differences by race/ethnicity in college involvement and outcomes. Journal of Higher Education, 78, 125–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Golden, C., Katz, L., & Kuziemko, I. (2006). The homecoming of American college women: The reversal of the college gender gap. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(4), 133–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gray, M. J., Ondaatje, E. H., & Zakaras, L. (1999). Combining service and learning in higher education: Summary report. Santa Monica: Rand Education.Google Scholar
  28. Horn, L. J., & Malizio, A. (1998). Undergraduates who work: National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, 1996. National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement Publication No. NCES 98-137. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  29. Hu, S. (2008). Do financial aid awards in college affect graduates’ democratic values and civic engagement? Journal of College and Character, 10(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hu, S. (2010). Scholarship awards, college choice, and student engagement in college activities: A study of high-achieving low-income students of color. Journal of College Student Development, 51(2), 150–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hu, S., & St. John, E. P. (2001). Student persistence in a public higher education system: Understanding racial and ethnic differences. Journal of Higher Education, 72(3), 265–286.Google Scholar
  32. Hurtado, S., Nelson-Laird, T., & Perorazio, T. (2004). The transition to college for low-income students: The impact of the Gates Millennium Scholars program. In E. P. St. John (Ed.), Readings on equal education: Improving access and college success for diverse students: Studies of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (Vol. 20). New York: AMS Press.Google Scholar
  33. Hurtado, S., Saenz, V. B., & Dar, L. (2006). Low-income students of color in higher education and the Gates Millennium Scholars. Report for the Gates Foundation.Google Scholar
  34. Hurwitz, M. (2012). The impact of institutional grant aid on college choice. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(3), 344–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Imbens, G., & Lemieux, T. (2008). Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice. Journal of Econometrics, 142(2), 615–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP). (2010). Expanding access and opportunity: The impact of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. Washington, DC: IHEP.Google Scholar
  37. Jacob, B., McCall, B., & Stange, K. M. (2013). College as country club: Do colleges cater to students preferences for consumption? (NBER working paper 18745. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  38. Kane, T. J. (2003). A quasi-experimental estimate of the impact of financial aid on college-going. Working Paper 9703. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  39. Kim, J. (2012). Exploring the relationship between state financial aid policy and postsecondary enrollment choices: A focus on income and race differences. Research in Higher Education, 53(2), 123–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kim, J., & Sax, L. (2014). The effects of student-faculty interaction on academic self-concept: Does academic major matter? Research in Higher Education, 55(8), 780–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Knapp, L. G., Kelly-Reid, J. E., & Ginder, S. A. (2012). Enrollment in postsecondary institutions, fall 2011; financial statistics, fiscal year 2011; and graduation rates, selected cohorts, 2003–2008. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.Google Scholar
  42. Kuh, G. D., Cruce, T. M., Shoup, R., Kinzie, J., & Gonyea, R. M. (2008). Unmasking the effects of student engagement on first-year college grades and persistence. Journal of Higher Education, 79, 540–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kuh, G. D., & Hu, S. (2001). The effects of student faculty interaction in the 1990s. The Review of Higher Education, 24(3), 309–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kuh, G. D., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. J., Andreas, R., Lyons, J., Strange, C. C., et al. (1991). Involving colleges: Successful approaches to fostering student learning and development outside the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  45. Leppel, K. (2002). Similarities and differences in the college persistence of men and women. The Review of Higher Education, 25(4), 433–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lesik, S. A. (2008). Studying the effectiveness of programs and initiatives in higher education using the regression-discontinuity design. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  47. Leslie, L., & Brinkman, P. (1987). Student price response in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 58, 181–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Long, B. T. (2004). The role of perceptions and information in college access: An exploratory review of the literature and possible data sources. The Education Resources Institute (TERI).Google Scholar
  49. Long, B. T. (2008). What is known about the impact of financial aid? Implications for policy. National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR) Working Paper, Teachers College, Columbia University.Google Scholar
  50. Long, B. T., & Riley, E. (2007). Financial aid: A broken bridge to college access. Harvard Educational Review, 77(1), 39–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Markus, G. B., Howard, J. P. F., & King, D. C. (1993). Integrating community service and classroom instruction enhances learning: Results from an experiment. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15(4), 410–419.Google Scholar
  52. McCall, B. P., & Bielby, R. M. (2012). Regression Discontinuity Design: Recent developments and a guide to practice for researchers in higher education. In J. C. Smart & M. B. Paulson (Eds.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (Vol. 27). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  53. McCrary, J. (2008). Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test. Journal of Econometrics, 142(2), 714–798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Melguizo, T. (2010). Are students of color more likely to graduate from college if they attend more selective institutions? Evidence from a cohort of recipients and non-recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 32(2), 230–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Milem, J. F., & Berger, J. B. (1997). A modified model of college student persistence: Exploring the relationship between Astin’s theory of involvement and Tinto’s theory of student departure. Journal of College Student Development, 38(4), 387–400.Google Scholar
  56. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2002). Student background and institutional differences in reasons for early departure, 199698. Postsecondary Education Descriptive Analysis Reports. Office of Educational Research and Improvement.Google Scholar
  57. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2012). Digest of education statistics 20011 (NCES 2012-001). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  58. National Opinion Research Corporation (NORC). (2004). Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Tracking and Longitudinal Study: 20032004. Final Report, Cohort 3. Chicago, IL: NORC.Google Scholar
  59. Nonis, S. A., & Hudson, G. I. (2006). Academic performance of college students: Influence of time spent studying and working. Journal of Education for Business, 81(3), 151–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Nora, A., Barlow, L., & Crisp, G. (2006). Examining the tangible and psychosocial benefits of financial aid with student access, engagement, and degree attainment. American Behavioral Scientist, 49(12), 1636–1651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Oseguera, L., Denson, N., & Hurtado, S. (2008). Hispanic students and the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program: Promising results extending to the third college year. Journal of College Student Retention, 10(3), 307–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1991). How college affects students: Findings and insights from twenty years of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  63. Perna, L. W. (Ed.). (2010). Understanding the working college student. Sterling, VA: Sylus Publishing.Google Scholar
  64. Ramsey, J. (2010). Expanding access and opportunity: The impact of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. Institute for Higher Education Policy.Google Scholar
  65. Scott-Clayton, J. (2011). On money and motivation: A quasi-experimental analysis of financial incentives for college achievement. Journal of Human Resources, 46(3), 614–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.Google Scholar
  67. St. John, E. P. (1990). Price response in enrollment decisions: An analysis of the High School and Beyond sophomore cohort. Research in Higher Education, 31(2), 161–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. St. John, E. P. & Chung, C. G. (2002). The impact of GMS on financial access: Analyses of the 2000 freshman cohort. Report prepared for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.Google Scholar
  69. St. John, E. P., Hu, S., Simmons, A., Carter, D. F., & Weber, J. (2004). What difference does it make? The influence of college major field on persistence by African American and White students. Research in Higher Education, 45(3), 202–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. St. John, E. P., Paulsen, M. B., & Carter, D. F. (2005). Diversity, college costs, and postsecondary opportunity: An examination of the financial nexus between college choice and persistence for African Americans and Whites. The Journal of Higher Education, 76, 545–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Stinebrickner, R., & Stinebrickner, T. R. (2003). Working during school and academic performance. Journal of Labor Economics, 21(2), 473–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Stratton, L. S., O’Toole, D. M., & Wetzel, J. N. (2007). Are the factors affecting dropout behavior related to initial enrollment intensity for college undergraduates? Research in Higher Education, 48(4), 453–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition- (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  75. Trent, W. T., & St. John, E. P. (Eds.). (2008). Resources, assets, and strengths among successful diverse students: Understanding the contributions of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. Google Scholar
  76. Umbach, P. D., & Wawrzynski, M. R. (2005). Faculty do matter: The role of college faculty in student learning and engagement. Research in Higher Education, 46(2), 153–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Walpole, M. (2003). Socioeconomic status and college: How SES affects college experiences and outcomes. The Review of Higher Education, 27(1), 45–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Wetzel, J., O’Toole, D., & Peterson, S. (1999). Factors affecting student retention probabilities. Journal of Economics and Finance, 23(1), 45–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Peabody CollegeVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Harvard Graduate School of Education and NBERCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations