Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Can Scholarships Alone Help Students Succeed? Lessons from Two New York City Community Colleges

What is the study about?
The study examined the effects of performance-based scholarships for low-income community college students (ages 22–35) who were required to enroll in remedial courses. The study evaluated the impact of the scholarships on continued community college enrollment, credits attempted and earned, and cumulative grade-point average (GPA). All study subjects were eligible for Pell Grants.

Study authors randomly assigned 1,502 students at two New York City community colleges into one of three groups: (a) students were offered a performance-based scholarship for two semesters (up to $2,600); (b) students were offered a performance-based scholarship for two semesters plus one summer term (up to $3,900); and (c) students were not offered a performance-based scholarship, though these students were still eligible to receive other financial aid. Scholarships were awarded directly to students, on top of their existing financial aid, at the beginning, middle, and end of each semester, contingent on their continued enrollment and grades. The two scholarship groups were combined for most analyses.

What did the study report?

Study authors reported findings for a number of outcomes related to enrollment, course taking, and grades. The portion of the study that examined enrollment rates reported that at the end of the two-semester program, 78.1% of the scholarship students were still enrolled, versus 76.6% of the students in the control group. Enrollment for the scholarship and control groups, respectively, was 61.9% versus 60.7% one semester after the program ended, and 51.2% versus 49.5% two semesters after the program ended. None of these differences are statistically significant.

How does the WWC rate this study?

This study used a randomized controlled trial to examine the impact of performance-based scholarships on a number of outcomes. The study findings for student enrollment outcomes meet WWC evidence standards without reservations. A more thorough review (forthcoming) will provide more details and will determine whether the findings for credits attempted, credits earned, and GPA can meet WWC evidence standards with or without reservations.

Patel, R., & Rudd, T. (2012). Can scholarships alone help students succeed? Lessons from two New York City community colleges. Retrieved from

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