Causal Effects of Financial Aid on the Social Relationships of Low-Income College Students

Will offering increased financial aid to low-income students affect educational outcomes, such as college performance and completion? How will it impact these students’ family and peer relationships?

The literature on financial aid suggests that it affects college enrollment, but there is little research on its relationship to college retention and performance. Goldrick-Rab and Harris have designed a financial aid intervention to be implemented in public colleges (both two- and four-year schools) and universities in the state of Wisconsin. Approximately 2,400 freshmen currently receiving federal Pell grants will be randomly assigned to receive the additional financial aid intervention condition (a scholarship of $1,700 per semester for up to 10 semesters of full-time enrollment) or their current aid package. This grant will allow Goldrick-Rab and Harris to perform an in-depth study of a subsample of 100 students from five campuses (20 students per campus site, split equally between the intervention and control conditions). These students will be interviewed twice each year and will complete budget logs with detailed information about expenses and income. The interviews will use the budget focus as a lens through which to explore the nature and importance of relationships with family and friends and how those relationships influence student behavior.

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