“This paper presents findings on five-year graduation rates for recipients of a performance-based scholarship targeting low-income first-year students at the University of New Mexico (UNM), a medium-sized public university. The program, Vision Inspired Scholarship through Academic Achievement (VISTA), provided cash payments for four semesters to students who enrolled in at least 12 credit hours in their first semester, and in at least 15 credit hours in subsequent semesters, and who earned a grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or higher. VISTA also provided students with enhanced academic advising. Because students were randomly assigned to the program (VISTA) or control groups, the effects of the program can be estimated by comparing outcomes over time for the two groups.
Although VISTA did not improve retention or grades, the findings show that it led to a large increase in the number of students taking 15 or more credits during the second through the fourth semesters, leading to a modest increase in average credits earned over this period. This modest advantage translated into a notable increase in the graduation rate of 5.1 percentage points after four and a half years (significant at the 5 percent level) and 4.5 percentage points after five years (an effect that just misses statistical significance at the conventional 10 percent level, with a significance level of 10.7 percent). In addition to the increased number of credit hours earned, the enhanced academic advising may have contributed to the higher graduation rate by raising awareness among VISTA students of the courses they needed to take to graduate” (p.1).
“The program and control groups consisted of 536 and 545 students, respectively. This analysis relies primarily on two sources of data: (1) the baseline survey, which included student-provided information on parental education, employment status, marital status, and primary language, and (2) registration and financial data from the institution’s administrative records. The research team also examined data from an internet survey of the second study cohort (those who entered college in 2009), fielded in the spring of the first academic year” (p. 10).
(Abstractor: Author)Full publication title: Providing Incentives for Timely Progress Toward Earning a College Degree: Results from a Performance-Based Scholarship Experiment