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

  • Benjamin L. Castleman
  • Bridget Terry Long

Gaps in average college success among students of differing backgrounds have persisted in the United States for decades. One of the primary ways governments have attempted to ameliorate such gaps is by providing need-based grants, but little evidence exists on the impacts of such aid on longer-term outcomes such as college persistence and degree completion. We examine the effects of the Florida Student Access Grant (FSAG) using a regression-discontinuity strategy and exploiting the cut-off used to determine eligibility. We find grant eligibility had a positive effect on attendance, particularly at public four-year institutions. We also extend the literature by investigating the impact of aid on college success and find that eligibility for FSAG increased early persistence and the cumulative number of college-level credits students earned in their first four years. Most importantly, we find that FSAG increased the likelihood of bachelor's degree receipt within six years at a public college or university by 4.6 percentage points, which translates into a 22 percent increase among students near the eligibility cut-off. The results are robust to sensitivity analyses.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19306.

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Date of creation: Aug 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19306
Note: ED LS
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  1. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
  2. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 1999. "Using Maimonides' Rule To Estimate The Effect Of Class Size On Scholastic Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(2), pages 533-575, May.
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  4. Angrist, Joshua & Lang, Daniel W. & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2007. "Incentives and Services for College Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Trial," IZA Discussion Papers 3134, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  6. Susan Dynarski, 2005. "Building the Stock of College-Educated Labor," NBER Working Papers 11604, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Thomas Kane, 2004. "Evaluating the Impact of the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program," NBER Working Papers 10658, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Kevin Booker Tim Sass Brian Gill Ron Zimmer, 2008. "Going Beyond Test Scores Evaluating Charter School Impact on Educational Attainment in Chicago and Florida," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 0c525c84b96141a4925b9d3be, Mathematica Policy Research.
  9. Susan Dynarski, 2000. "Hope for Whom? Financial Aid for the Middle Class and Its Impact on College Attendance," NBER Working Papers 7756, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Philip Oreopoulos & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2009. "How large are returns to schooling? Hint: Money isn't everything," NBER Working Papers 15339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Neil Seftor Sarah E Turner, 2002. "Back to School Federal Student Aid Policy and Adult College Enrollment," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 28f7ccb624fd4f2a9a20d7075, Mathematica Policy Research.
  12. Dynarski, Susan, 2000. "Hope for Whom? Financial Aid for the Middle Class and Its Impact on College Attendance," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 3), pages 629-62, September.
  13. David Deming & Susan Dynarski, 2009. "Into College, Out of Poverty? Policies to Increase the Postsecondary Attainment of the Poor," NBER Working Papers 15387, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Dynarski, Susan M. & Scott–Clayton, Judith E., 2006. "The Cost of Complexity in Federal Student Aid: Lessons from Optimal Tax Theory and Behavioral Economics," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(2), pages 319-56, June.
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