Improving Access & Equity in Private Scholarships

Can private scholarships reduce economic and racial inequalities in college enrollment and persistence?

Private scholarship programs are meant to enhance college opportunities, but White, non-first-generation, and higher-income students receive the majority of scholarship dollars. This uneven distribution of aid may miss the students most likely to benefit. Angrist and colleagues will partner with Scholarship America, the largest non-profit distributor of private scholarships in the U.S., and Common App, a unified college application used by over 1 million students each year. They will randomly assign scholarship awards across two years to 9,000 eligible four-year degree applicants who apply to college using the Common App. Angrist and colleagues will estimate the impact of award receipt and award size on college enrollment, persistence, and major choice by race, gender, family income, and first-generation status. They will also explore mediators and moderators of scholarship effects, including financial security, information access, cultural expectations, and academic and social engagement. A retrospective analysis of scholarship programs will provide insight into the effects of aid on longer-term outcomes using a quasi-experimental design. Findings will provide evidence on the potential of private scholarships to mitigate inequalities in college attainment and will be shared with study partners, including participating scholarship providers, scholarship and financial aid professionals, and academic outlets.

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