Financial aid significantly boosts persistence rates for the neediest students, but has only modest benefits to the average student, according to a study (pdf) of a private grant program in Wisconsin. High-risk Pell Grant recipients were significantly more likely to persist in college if they received additional financial aid, the Wisconsin Scholars Longitudinal Study (WSLS) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison concluded.
The Fund for Wisconsin Scholars (FFWS) provides $3,500 per year to full-time, federal Pell Grant recipients enrolled at University of Wisconsin campuses.
“Our findings suggest that making college more affordable for students who were initially unlikely to succeed in college increased their college persistence rates over the first three years of college by about 17 percentage points,” says Sara Goldrick-Rab, WSLS co-director and associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology.
Students without college-educated parents and those with lower test scores are much less likely to persist in college, the study found. The extra funding had the greatest benefit for this group.
Other students weren’t helped by the grant; some may even have done worse.