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

The goal of this study is to generate concrete information about the potential for financial aid to close graduation gaps and enhance social mobility.
The study examines a program that distributes a need-based grant to 1,200 college freshmen from low-income families. These students attend the 42 public colleges, technical colleges, and universities across Wisconsin. They are randomly assigned to receive a new grant.
The study seeks to determine whether aid can change students’ lives in ways that increase their chances of earning college degrees. The study will track those students (and a matched group of nonrecipients) over time, and conduct intensive interviews with 128 of those attending four colleges.
We will examine how the grant changes their extended family, peer, and community relationships, and in turn how those relationships shape their responses to financial aid. Given the large and growing gap in college graduation rates between low- and high-income students, and the potential for aid to reduce that gap, this is a particularly important investigation.


Completed on September 30, 2010