Temple University-APLU Completion Grants Will Help Low-Income Students Graduate

February 22, 2017

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A nearly $4 million Department of Education (ED) grant will enable Temple University, in collaboration with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), to undertake an initiative focused on small-dollar grants to help cash-strapped, low-income students complete their degrees.

The five-year project, led by Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education in Temple’s College of Education, and Shari Garmise, vice president of APLU’s Office of Urban Initiatives and executive director of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), will evaluate and enhance the completion grants at a number of APLU member institutions.

In its first phase, the initiative will examine completion grants at seven universities to assess key features of the program, including how they are targeted and delivered to students and their impact on student financial aid. In the second phase, APLU and Temple will work with partner institutions to conduct a randomized controlled trial of the completion grants, which has four components: financial aid, messaging, requirements and additional services needed for students completing their degrees.

These types of emergency aid programs are considered a win-win for students and institutions, The Washington Post reported in writing about the project.

“A college degree has never been more important, but as we look to expand access to more first-generation and low-income students, we must recognize that cost too often becomes a roadblock,” Goldrick-Rab said. “We know that far too many students who are on track to graduate drop out of school simply because they don’t have the necessary financial resources. That’s bad for both the student and the institution.”

The grants, often in the $500 to $1,000 range, are made to college seniors in good academic standing who might drop out because of small financial shortfalls, despite being close to earning their degree. They have been found to be effective at a number of institutions, including Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Georgia State University, notes APLU, which last year produced a report on this topic with USU.

“This grant represents the first comprehensive effort to evaluate the efficacy of completion grants in a national, rigorous way,” Garmise said. “Completion grants are life-changers for low-income students. This modest amount of extra emergency aid has shown tremendous promise in helping low-income students complete their degrees at a number of institutions. The results of this project could well more firmly establish completion grants as a broadly accepted way to increase graduation rates–not just at the institutions in this study, but at universities all across the country.”

At a Glance

ACE Member Institution: Temple University

Initiative:  Temple-APLU Completion Grant Project

Become a member: As a member of ACE, you join nearly 1,800 organizations that collectively promote, protect and advocate for students, faculty and administrators in higher education. ACE is the most visible and influential higher education association in the nation, and we are at the center of federal policy debates concerning legislation that affects campuses across the country. See more on the ACE website.

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