Washington, D.C. – The amount of financial aid given to community college students in Louisiana through Pell Grants and other assistance had no significant impact on their academic success, according to new study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Noel-Levitz that was conducted for the Louisiana Board of Regents.
The study found that academic preparation is a stronger predictor of success than financial aid. It also showed that the more developmental courses students need, the less likely they are to succeed.
“These findings raise fundamental questions about how to address the needs of students who are not college ready. Many students who need developmental education have less than a one in 10 chance of succeeding. Admitting them to community college may not be fair to students, many whom have taken time out of the labor market, paid tuition and taken loans to finance their education. It may also not be fair to taxpayers, who pay for the state subsidies to community colleges and other state aid programs,” said Mark Schneider, co-author of the report and a vice president at AIR.
The study, Can Financial Aid Improve Student Success at Louisiana’s Community Colleges?, examined whether financial aid affects student retention and completion at two-year colleges, and if such assistance can be used more efficiently to increase student success rates without significantly increasing the cost of the aid programs. Researchers focused primarily on the state’s Pell Grant recipients and full-time community college students. Success was measured by whether a student earned a certificate or an associate’s degree within three years of enrolling as a first-time full-time student, or if they transferred to a four-year Louisiana college within the same time frame.
In total, the study found that 28 percent of all students who did not enroll in any developmental courses succeeded in earning a degree or transferring to a four-year university. In contrast, even one developmental education course cut student success rates in half, regardless of whether they received Pell grants.
Additional findings include:
- Pell Grants did not overcome differences in success rates across income levels among students with equivalent academic preparation. Students with Pell grants succeeded at slightly lower rates than those students without grants.
- Increasing financial aid to students at Louisiana community colleges will not dramatically increase their academic success.
- Students who do not take any developmental courses are more likely to complete a degree or transfer to a four-year university than students who need to take one or more developmental courses.
The report is part of a series of studies conducted with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is a companion piece to an earlier report on the effects of grants and scholarships on student retention in Louisiana’s four-year regional state university campuses. The full report is available on www.air.org.
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit www.air.org.
Noel-Levitz has consulted with more than 2,700 public and private colleges and universities across North America, helping these campuses and systems reach and exceed their goals for student recruitment, financial aid, student retention and completion, and strategic enrollment management. In addition, Noel-Levitz convenes events attended by more than 5,000 educators each year and produces reports, papers, and columns to help campus leaders analyze current enrollment trends and discover more effective strategies.