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.