The Price of STEM Success: The Impact of Need-Based Financial Aid on STEM Production

The Price of STEM Success: The Impact of Need-Based Financial Aid on STEM Production

2021

Sara Goldrick-Rab, Josipa Roksa, Alison Bowman, Vanessa Coca, Peter Kinsley, Christine Baker-Smith, Emily Brunjes Colo, and Gregory Kienzl

This study investigates whether financial grants, allocated based on need rather than major, improves odds that economically vulnerable students will pursue science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM) degrees. We implemented a privately-funded financial aid program in Wisconsin and conducted a randomized experiment of its effects for low and moderate-income students at 10 two-year and four-year colleges and universities. The additional financial support greatly increased the probability that students would persist in pursuing a STEM major and/or switch to a STEM major by the third year of school. However, it did not change the odds that students would remain enrolled. Implications for educational opportunity, practice, and policy are discussed. 

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