Mind over a matter of money: two essays on college persistence and graduation outcomes for low-income and African American students Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Wilson, Valerie Rawlston
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics
  • This study consists of a pair of papers which examine the relative effects of academic, social and financial characteristics on four-year college persistence and completion outcomes, conditional upon initial enrollment. I employ discrete time event history modeling to control for duration dependence in estimating the probability of stopping out before the completion of a bachelor's degree. In the first paper I test whether persistence and graduation rates for African-American students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) differ from those at Traditionally White Institutions (TWI). The results of my analysis reveal that overall, African-American students who attend HBCUs are no more likely than those who attend TWIs to experience an interruption in enrollment before the end of the fourth year or to return to the same university after a period of non-enrollment. However, during the 1980s, HBCU students were more likely than those at TWIs to receive a bachelor's degree within six years. During the 1990s, there was no statistical difference in graduation rates between students attending HBCUs and those attending TWIs. In the second paper, I estimate the effects of the Pell grant, total grant aid, and total financial aid (including grants and loans) on college persistence behavior. I adopt estimation methods that take advantage of discontinuities in the Pell grant and EFC formulas in order to obtain unbiased estimates of the effect of financial aid on persistence behavior. The results suggest that a $1,000 increase in the scheduled Pell grant reduces the probability of stopout for four-year college students by 0.5 to 0.8 percentage points. The total effect of grant aid, which included the Pell grant as well as other types of need-based and merit-based grant aid, was found to have no effect on stopout behavior among four-year college students. On the other hand, a $1,000 increase in the total aid package, including grants, loans and workstudy, increased the likelihood of stopping out by 0.6 to 1.1 percentage points. In both papers, academic performance and family background were the greatest determinants of persistence and degree attainment.
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  • Klaauw, Wilbert van der
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