Looking Beyond Enrollment: Causal Effect of Need-Based Grants on College Access, Persistence, and Graduation

Looking Beyond Enrollment: Causal Effect of Need-Based Grants on College Access, Persistence, and Graduation

Issue/Topic: Postsecondary Affordability--Financial Aid; Postsecondary Participation--Access; Postsecondary Students--Low-Income; Postsecondary Success--Completion
Author(s): Castleman, Benjamin; Long, Bridget
Organization(s): Harvard Graduate School of Education; University of Virginia
Publication: National Bureau of Economic Research
Published On: 8/1/2013

While median enrollment and degree completion rates have increased over the last 30 years, gaps still persist for low-income students. States and the federal government provide need-based grants, in part, to diminish attainment gaps. This study evaluates whether one state's need-based program produces the intended effect: that is, to improve degree completion rates for low-income students.

(1) To estimate the impact of student eligibility for the Florida Student Access Grant on college persistence and degree completion; (2) to investigate the interaction between need-based and merit-based aid.


Student Outcomes

Policy Outcomes

Policy Implications/Recommendations:

Research Design:
Study uses a regression-discontinuity analysis to estimate the causal effect of being eligible for need-based aid on whether students matriculate, accumulate credits, persist, and complete a bachelor's degree. Estimates the college outcomes of students just below and just above the family income eligibility cutoff.

45,785 high school seniors. The sample excludes subjects who did not submit a FAFSA application.

Year data is from:


Data Collection and Analysis:
Study uses student-level data from the Florida Department of Education's K-20 Data Warehouse. Sample contains seniors in Florida public high schools during the 1999-2000 school year. This study can be accessed through the following link: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19306

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