College scholarships have long played an important role in ensuring access to post-secondary education in the U.S. However, researchers and practitioners are increasingly recognizing the imperative of post-secondary persistence and completion as well. Philanthropic funders can restructure their scholarship awards to improve post-secondary persistence and completion, in addition to access.
- Grant aid has a positive effect on post-secondary completion: grants appear to be the most helpful form of aid, although the data is more robust for 4-year than for 2-year institutions.
- Accumulated debt hinders degree attainment: students’ aversion to debt can discourage enrollment, increase time-to-degree, and have a negative effect on degree completion.
- Too many hours spent working slows or halts students’ progress towards a credential: while work-study funding for on-campus jobs provides many of the same positive features of grant aid in encouraging persistence and completion, the attraction of more highly paid off-campus jobs can lead students to take longer to complete a degree or to not complete a degree at all.