Report Examines Impact of Finances on Community College Students

Increasing numbers of young Americans are choosing to enter postsecondary
education through community colleges -- but too many of them are having to
work and attend part time and too few of them are leaving with degrees as a
result, the think tank Demos argues in a report
B97ADF17DE3CF5>  released Tuesday.


Work Less, Study More & Succeed

How Financial Supports Can Improve Postsecondary Success

September 29, 2009

By Viany
FA332CFC25F43>  Orozco Nancy
BB33042CAC94E>  K. Cauthen

View the PDF <>  (right-click and
save link as to download) | Order a <mailto:[log in to unmask]>  Hardcopy

Even though more of today's young adults are motivated to seek a
postsecondary education, too many of them are sidelined by the financial
burden of paying for school while meeting their other financial obligations.
This report argues that to increase postsecondary success among low- to
moderate-income students, we must reform financial aid and provide
additional financial supports to help students cover the cost of living
expenses (especially housing and transportation) so that young students can
work less, study more, and finish their degrees.

Highlights Include:

・         In the last 25 years, college costs have increased more than 400
percent, while the median family income has increased less than 150 percent.
Not only has financial aid not kept pace with the rise in costs, it has
shifted away from awards based on financial need to loans and merit-based

・         Even after accounting for all financial sources, full-time,
full-year community college students from families with the lowest incomes
averaged $6,544 of unmet need per year; students from the lower-middle
income quartile had an average unmet need of nearly $5,000.

・         To finance their educations, 58 percent of young community
college students enroll in school only part time, and 61 percent work more
than 20 hours per week. Yet research clearly indicates that full-time
enrollment and part-time employment of less than 15 hours per week provides
the optimal situation for young students to concentrate on their studies and
finish their degree.

・         Surveys of students who have left college without earning a
credential routinely cite employment and finances as the main reasons for
student departure: one study found that nearly 40 percent of students who
worked full time while enrolled dropped out within three years, compared to
19 percent of students who worked part time and 13 percent who did not work.

・         Part-time enrollment appears to increase the risk of departure
even more than employment-after controlling for other factors, 51 percent of
students who enrolled part time left by the end of three years without a
credential compared to 14 percent.

Source and Preview the Report:

What Works for the Needy

September 30, 2009

When it comes to policies that help the needy attend college, simplicity
rules, and financial aid programs seem to be more effective when they link
money to academic performance and/or support services for students.

Those are the key findings of a paper, <>
"Into College, Out of Poverty? Policies to Increase the Postsecondary
Attainment of the Poor," published this week by the National Bureau of
Economic Research. The paper, by written David Deming of Harvard University
and Susan Dynarski of the University of Michigan, was supported by the Robin
Hood Foundation as part of its forthcoming book, Targeting Investments in
Children: Fighting Poverty When Resources are Limited (University of Chicago

The scholars' paper does not present any new data; it instead reviews 17
studies by other scholars on a range of federal, state and philanthropic
programs and policies that aim in one way or another to reduce what needy
students must spend on college to try to increase their access to college --
and, increasingly, to keep them enrolled. The list of programs is long: Pell
Grants, subsidized loans, tax incentives and veterans' benefits at the
federal level (as well as the Upward Bound college prep program), tuition
subsidies and need- and merit-based grant programs at the state level, and
foundation programs like the Gates Millennium Scholars
<> .

Deming and Dynarski examined the programs to try to gauge which are most
effective, dollar for dollar, at increasing college going and persistence.
They draw attention to some comparatively little known programs --
underscoring the "very encouraging" results in student retention, for
instance, produced through MDRC's
<>  "Opening Doors"
project, which provided small grants and significant services at community
colleges in Louisiana, New York and Ohio.

But the authors' most intriguing conclusions are probably the ones they draw
about the country's most highly visible programs: federal Pell Grants and
state initiatives like Georgia's HOPE Scholarship program. While Pell Grants
are narrowly targeted at the scholars' chosen goal -- drawing low-income
students into higher education who would not otherwise have gone at all --
they fall short of their promise because they require so much paperwork
(especially on the part of applicants who are often intimidated by the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid). "If targeted students are deterred by
administrative hurdles, these programs will not work as well as intended,"
the authors write.

Many advocates for low-income students have criticized Georgia's merit-based
HOPE program (which has no income cutoff and goes to students with high
high-school grade point averages) because its funds have gone
disproportionately to students from higher up on the income scale. But the
program's simplicity -- potential recipients know that they can get free
tuition at any public college in the state if they get a 3.0 in high school
-- makes it highly effective in getting low-income students into college,
even if it means that large numbers of students who are not in the target
population of needy students also benefit.

"In sum, the best evidence for effective financial aid on educational
attainment comes from simple, broad-based programs," the authors write. If
enough students from low-income families enter college because of HOPE and
programs like it, they argue -- a threshold that they say previous studies
show the programs clearly pass -- it appears that "a simple, broad-based aid
program can increase social welfare."

The authors go out of their way to say that they do not mean to imply that
Pell is not effective -- only that it is far less effective than it could
be, and that the changes Congress and the Obama administration are
considering to simplify both the process for applying for federal aid and
the criteria the government uses to award the grants would strengthen it
significantly. "We try to focus on what can be done pretty simply to improve
the program," Deming said in an interview.

Donald E. Heller, director of Pennsylvania State University's Center for the
Study of Higher <>  Education and another
financial aid researcher, said he did not read the study as suggesting that
the Georgia program is better or more effective than Pell. But he did say he
thought the paper's authors "missed the boat" by failing to point out that
HOPE's effectiveness as a tool to help the poor get a higher education could
be greatly enhanced if it added a financial need component.

"They say that the reason that HOPE has such a large impact is because it is
very transparent," Heller said. "But I'm surprised they didn't say that if
you did something that was as simple to understand, but was based on need,
it would have an even bigger impact" from a social welfare standpoint.

"Just imagine if you took the $460 million a year Georgia spends and said
something equivalent, like 'If you're from income below $x, you will go to
college for free,' " Heller said. "You would get some kind of multiplier if
the state put it in need-based aid instead."

-  <mailto:[log in to unmask]> Doug Lederman

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Book Reviews:

On Critically Conscious Research: Approaches to Language and Literacy

reviewed by Marcella Kehus
<>  - August 31, 2009


Deaf Cognition: Foundations and Outcomes

reviewed by Diane Clark
<>  - August 31, 2009


The Very Thought of Education: Psychoanalysis and the Impossible Professions

reviewed by K. Daniel Cho
<>  - August 24, 2009


Breaking into the All-Male Club: Female Professors of Educational

reviewed by Carol Issac
<>  - August 24, 2009


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