Panel: Improving Financing and College Opportunities of Disadvantaged Students

Thursday, November 8, 2012: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
International D (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Hiromi Ono, Institute of Education Sciences/U.S. Department of Education
Moderators:  Brock Thomas, RI and Judith Scott-Clayton, Columbia University
Chairs:  Thomas Bailey, Columbia University

How programs and policies could be structured to improve financial and educational opportunities of disadvantaged individuals has been debated for decades. Since the Higher Education Act (HEA) was passed in 1965, the government has been assigned a role in equalizing educational opportunities, in part through finances. With that, the efficacy of existing programs and policies that are related to financial aid, and how to improve them, have become a public concern. Disadvantaged students are “at risk” of losing opportunities due to these programs being ineffective. For them, identifying existing and innovative programs that effectively increase financial opportunities—and by enhancing financial opportunities, improving college opportunities-- is critical to their well-being. What kinds of existing and innovative programs and policies improve financing opportunities, or encourage college going opportunities through financial aid, among disadvantaged students? In this session, we revisit this classic question, and aim to answer it with cutting edge empirical research that draws on contemporary programs and rigorous methods. Identifying effective programs and policies helps governments and educational institutions better serve disadvantaged students. Through presentations by four authors that are engaging in the evaluation of programs and policies at the postsecondary level, the panel will lead a discussion to answer the above noted question. The panel is unique in that it brings together leading researchers at both research institutes and universities. The chair, the panelists, and the discussants are well known and well regarded researchers in evaluating postsecondary education programs and policies. Four authors will present their papers in the session. They will discuss the evaluation of three types of existing and innovative programs and policies aimed to support disadvantaged students: a) financial aid programs that are already in existence (Castleman and Long), or are innovations to existing financial aid programs (Richburg-Hayes); b) innovative support programs that enhance the chances of financial aid applications, and through financial applications, college enrollment (Bos); and c) existing programs that have financial aid as a component in order to enhance educational opportunities (McFarlin). First, Castleman and Long examine the impacts of Florida’s Student Access Grant (FSAG) on short and long term outcomes of students. They find that FSAG eligibility significantly improves college access, persistence, and completion. Second, Richburg-Hayes presents her work on the evaluation of performance based scholarships (PBS). She shows that PBS has impacts on a variety of college outcomes, such as course taking patterns and part-time versus full-time enrollment. Third, Bos investigates the impact of the SOURCE program, which offers individualized near-peer mentoring to high school juniors in California. He finds that the program is effective in improving students’ chances of applying for a variety of types of aid, particularly among students whose parents do not have a college degree. Finally, McFarlin investigates the impact of automatic admissions under the Texas 10 percent plan, which also has a financial aid component, on disadvantaged students’ college choice. His analysis demonstrates that the plan encourages students’ attendance to Texas’s flagship universities as opposed to attendance to non-flagship universities.

Filling the Financial Aid Gap: The Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration In Three States
Lashawn Richburg-Hayes, Reshma Patel, Cynthia Miller, Paulette Cha, Melissa Binder and Kate Krause, MDRC

Percent Plans, Automatic Admissions, and College Attainment
Isaac McFarlin, University of Michigan, Paco Martorell, RAND Corporation and Lindsay Daugherty, Center for Education Policy Research

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