Completion Grants: An Evaluation of Experimental Findings on College Attainment

Completion Grants: An Evaluation of Experimental Findings on College Attainment

December 2021

Sara Goldrick-Rab, Christine Baker-Smith, Travis York, Kallie Clark, Douglas Webber, and Christel Perkins

Financial shortfalls in the final years of college, created by escalating costs and/or declining financial aid, lead many students to leave college without degrees in hand. Completion grants, an increasingly popular approach to improving college completion, provide additional financial support to students struggling with financial hurdles during the final stretch of their degree program.

While there is descriptive and anecdotal evidence that these programs may have positive impacts, this study offers the first analysis of the causal impact of completion grants on academic outcomes at 11 broad- and open-access universities.

We find no evidence of positive impacts on academic outcomes for students in the aggregate or for students parsed by identifiable subgroups. Standard completion grant programs may be exacerbating inequality, not ameliorating it.

This working paper is part of The Hope Center’s Completion Grants project. The research reported here is supported by the Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305N170020 to Temple University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.