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New Report Finds that Performance-Based Scholarship Program Helps Young Latino Men Succeed

Posted on: January 22, 2015

A report recently released by MDRC titled “Moving Forward” indicates that performance-based scholarships have a positive effect on student success in postsecondary education.

College graduation rates for Latino students, especially Latino male students, are lower than the national average.  In fact, 2009 data shows that Latino students in Arizona public universities were less likely to graduate than their White peers.  One out of every two Latino students who began college finished their baccalaureate degree within six years of enrollment, while 58 percent of White students graduated.* 

In addition, national research indicates that Hispanic students -- particularly males -- may be more likely to forego college for work, enter college less prepared and be more reluctant to ask for help. They tend to be debt-averse and are less likely to seek financial assistance in the form of college loans.

In 2010, Helios Education Foundation partnered with MDRC, a national nonprofit research firm, to offer 500 low-income Hispanic male students a Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona a financial assistance program that was structured as a series of incentive payments. 

The program, called the Adelante Performance Award Program, was designed with three main goals in mind: first, to help make college more affordable to low-income students; second, to structure scholarship payments to provide an incentive for good academic progress; and third, to encourage and directly reward participation in student services.

Students who were eligible for the Adelante Performance Award Program could receive up to $4,500 in total over three semesters. Payments were contingent on their meeting academic benchmarks throughout the semester and participating in student support services such as advising, tutoring and workshops.

By offering the financial assistance at strategic points throughout the semester and the bulk of the payment only upon successful completion of courses, Helios and MDRC sought to tie financial aid to performance.

"Performance-based scholarships combined with required participation in student supports represent a new wave of thinking in financial aid and service delivery," comments Linda Thompson, Helios Education Foundation's Senior Vice President and Chief Impact Officer. "These needs-based awards use financial incentives to motivate changes in behavior, and unlike merit aid, performance-based scholarships reward future, rather than past performance."

Recent analysis of the program has shown positive early effects, according to a recent random assignment study by MDRC.   Results from two semesters of follow-up include:

  • The program increased full-time enrollment in students’ second semester. In their second semester in the program, students in the program group were 13.2 percentage points more likely to enroll full time compared with a control group mean of 48.8 percent (a 27 percent increase). Other research shows that full-time enrollment is associated with academic success and graduation.
  • The program increased the number of credits earned. Students in the program group earned almost two full credits more than those in the control group over the first year of the program.

The program had a small but positive effect on semester-to-semester retention. Students’ second semester in the program saw a small, 4.6 percentage-point increase in registration (a 6 percent increase over a control group registration rate of 74 percent).   Click here to read the full MDRC report. 

*Dropped? Latino Education and Arizona’s Economic Future.  Morrison Institute for Public Policy. 

Category: Postsecondary Completion

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