A new study into the effects of financial aid to help needy people attend college has found that the money makes little difference to whether or not students completed their degree programs.
In fact, according to the Wisconsin Scholars Longitudinal Study, in some cases the money had a negative effect on college attendance and graduation.
The research found that cash — including Pell Grants which have been awarded to 5.4 million needy American students — may benefit at-risk students considered more likely to drop out of college — but that the money might also make a student considered “most likely to succeed” more likely to leave without completing a degree.
The Wisconsin study began in 2008 and offered extra financial help of $3,500 a year to students who were already eligible for Pell Grants, which are capped at a maximum of $5,500.
“We find that students respond to formal cash incentives in unexpected ways,” said the research authors, including Sara Goldrick-Rab of the University of Wisconsin.