College students who receive generous scholarship opportunities are relieved of some of the financial burden of paying for school. But to what extent does this benefit translate into other positive outcomes? How, specifically, does winning scholarships help students achieve their college goals? Four studies being presented this week at the Association for the Study of Higher Education's annual conference seek to answer these questions.
Two studies focused on recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, an extremely generous scholarship for minorities offered by Bill and Melinda Gates. A third tracked recipients of the Kalamazoo Promise, the first in a series of large-scale full-tuition local scholarship programs, which provides scholarship funding to all qualifying Kalamazoo, Michigan residents who choose to attend one of Michigan's state colleges. The fourth looks at University of Iowa applicants' responses to financial aid offers.
The study of University of Iowa students reinforces the idea that scholarship money steers students' college plans, especially among certain minority groups. African American and Hispanic students were less likely to attend the university, presumably choosing a more affordable or more generous institution, if they did not receive the amount of financial assistance they had hoped for. These results reinforce the importance of college affordability and will hopefully encourage universities to offer more generous awards to student populations they wish to attract.
While institutional financial aid influences students' college choices, so do other scholarships. Studies showed that Gates Millennium Scholars and Kalamazoo Promise recipients appear more inclined than their peers of similar backgrounds towards applying to and ultimately choosing colleges that are pricier or more competitive.
Gates Millennium Scholars are also more likely to graduate--matching graduation rates of higher-income students--as well as to graduate on time. In fact, 90 percent of these students finished a four-year degree in four years, which is proving to be an increasingly rare accomplishment among students currently attending college.
In some ways, these studies reinforce things many students already knew. Scholarships influence students' college choices. Scholarship winners go to better schools, are more likely to graduate, and are more likely to graduate sooner--and the studies suggest this because they won a scholarship, not just because they're smart and motivated. Even if none of this is news to you, it should still be a powerful motivator for you to start your own scholarship search. It does appear to be the formula for college success.