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ERDC studies link between financial aid, graduation rates

May 23, 2018

OLYMPIA – College students with fewer of their financial needs met through aid are less likely to finish their degree than those who received more financial aid. That, and other findings about the relationship between financial need and college graduation rates, are included in a report released recently by the Washington Office of Financial Management’s Education Research and Data Center.

ERDC produced the research brief that explores the levels of unmet financial need among college students in Washington. Unmet need refers to the total cost of college attendance not covered by the student’s expected family contribution or by financial aid.

Curiously, community and technical college students had higher levels of unmet need than those at public four-year institutions, despite the lower costs of attendance at the two-year schools. This is perhaps because students who attended community and technical colleges received less need-based aid and had lower expected family contributions. In addition, to compensate for this unmet need, students attending the four-year colleges borrowed more than students attending the community and technical colleges, and students attending the community and technical colleges worked more than students attending the four-year schools. Even students who did not complete a bachelor’s degree left college with debt.

“These counterintuitive results will spark some discussion on financial aid in our state,” said ERDC’s Jeffrey Thayne. “Until this report, it never occurred to me that students attending lower-cost community colleges might experience greater financial need than their peers at the four-year colleges and universities.”

ERDC works with partner agencies in Washington to develop analyses of learning that can improve student outcomes. The purpose of its longitudinal data system is to assist lawmakers by enabling researchers to conduct valuable research for policy- and decision making at the state level and in partnering institutions, such as the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges or public four-year institutions. This unmet need research is part of a larger series of studies that explore the impacts of need-based financial aid on completion of postsecondary education, with the goal of informing policies that better serve Washington students as they complete their college education.

Read the report:

Unmet Need among Financially Needy College Students in the State of Washington