Affording Degree Completion: A Study of Completion Grants at Accessible Public Universities

About the Research Study

Affording Degree Completion: A Study of Completion Grants at Accessible Public Universities

About the Research Study

Cost remains a significant hurdle to college completion, even as students near the finish line. Some colleges offer small completion grants of $500 to $1,500 to students who are less than a year from obtaining their degrees but at risk of dropping out due to financial hardship. These grants often come with "skin in the game" stipulations that students perform certain activities intended to support college completion, such as meeting with an advisor or attending financial literacy training.

The research team is working with 11 open- and broad-access institutions, all members of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), to assess the features of completion grant programs and evaluate whether students who receive these grants complete their degrees at a higher rate than students who do not have access to completion grants. The first phase of the project included a pilot efficacy study, or “learning year,” to understand the complex institutional structures involved in implementing and running completion grants and to measure the short-term impact of completion grant programs on semester-to-semester persistence, social-psychological well-being, and on-time graduation. The second phase involves working with APLU and nine universities to conduct a randomized controlled trial to assess the programs' medium-term impacts and cost effectiveness.

Study period: 2017–21 (pilot efficacy study: 2017–18; evaluation: 2018–19; follow-up through 2021)

This project is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305N170020 to Temple University.

About the Research Team

Affording Degree Completion: A Study of Completion Grants at Accessible Public Universities

About the Research Team

This study is a collaboration between Temple University's Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The study capitalizes on the Hope Center's strong record in promoting college affordability and the unique relationships that APLU has with open-access institutions. APLU has developed these relationships through its leadership in the field in working with institutions to promote programs that support students to degree completion. Together, the researchers involved from these organizations bring a focus on rigorous and meaningful research informed and embedded within organizational practices and contexts to advance equity and affordability for students success.

Research Team Members

Affording Degree Completion: A Study of Completion Grants at Accessible Public Universities

Research Team Members
Photo of Sara Goldrick-Rab
Sara Goldrick-Rab, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology and Medicine at Temple University / Founding Director, Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice
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Photo of Douglas Webber
Douglas Webber, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Economics, Temple University
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Photo of Shari Garmise
Shari Garmise, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) & Senior Vice President, Urban Initiatives, APLU
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Photo of Travis York
Travis York, Ph.D.
Assistant Vice President, Academic & Student Affairs, APLU
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Photo of Christine Baker-Smith
Christine Baker-Smith, Ph.D.
Managing Director & Director of Research, Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice
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Head shot of Eddy Conroy
Eddy Conroy
Associate Director of Research Communications, Hope Center for College, Community and Justice
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