Merit-based Aid and (In)equality: Examining Variation in Policy and Effects on Social Mobility

Do state-funded merit-aid programs used by colleges and universities promote or hinder social mobility for undergraduate students? Does the social mobility impact of merit-aid vary by race, income, and institutional selectivity?

States increasingly adopt merit-based aid, but it is unclear whether such aid reduces inequality. This study examines how merit-based aid impacts students of color and low income undergraduate students. More specifically, this project will examine the impact of state-funded merit aid programs on minoritized students in terms of their enrollment, awarded degrees, and earning levels after graduation. The team will analyze longitudinal data from multifaceted merit-aid programs across states, from 1997 to 2020. Hu will use a quasi-experimental approach to examine how variations in state-funded merit-aid policies influence social mobility for minoritized students in order to develop policy-informing implications for policymakers and college leaders. Additionally, the research team will produce a publicly available dataset to aid future research and policymaking teams.