NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Looking Beyond Enrollment: The Causal Effect of Need-Based Grants on College Access, Persistence, and Graduation

Benjamin L. Castleman, Bridget Terry Long

NBER Working Paper No. 19306
Issued in August 2013
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS

Gaps in average college success among students of differing backgrounds have persisted in the United States for decades. One of the primary ways governments have attempted to ameliorate such gaps is by providing need-based grants, but little evidence exists on the impacts of such aid on longer-term outcomes such as college persistence and degree completion. We examine the effects of the Florida Student Access Grant (FSAG) using a regression-discontinuity strategy and exploiting the cut-off used to determine eligibility. We find grant eligibility had a positive effect on attendance, particularly at public four-year institutions. We also extend the literature by investigating the impact of aid on college success and find that eligibility for FSAG increased early persistence and the cumulative number of college-level credits students earned in their first four years. Most importantly, we find that FSAG increased the likelihood of bachelor’s degree receipt within six years at a public college or university by 4.6 percentage points, which translates into a 22 percent increase among students near the eligibility cut-off. The results are robust to sensitivity analyses.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19306

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