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What predicts early college success in Indiana?

What predicts early college success in Indiana?

By Marguerite Huber
March 7, 2018

All of the hard work that students do to get accepted into college doesn’t necessarily stop when they receive an acceptance letter. Once on campus, students have to focus on many things, including doing well in their classes and paying for school. This can be challenging, and even more so for low-income students. Many take advantage of financial assistance through the Federal Pell Grant Program, which provides needs-based grants to low-income undergraduate students. In Indiana, students from low-income families also have access to the Indiana 21st Century Scholarship, which provides Hoosier students with up to four years of undergraduate tuition.

A new Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest report, Predicting Early College Success for Indiana’s High School Class of 2014, came out of a request for help from stakeholders at Indiana’s Management Performance Hub (formerly Indiana Network of Knowledge). They were looking for assistance in understanding the early college success of students entering Indiana’s public two- and four-year colleges, with a specific focus on students who receive financial aid. This study used new financial data included in the state longitudinal data system and built off a previous report on predictors of early college success in Indiana. Learn more about the collaboration in our previous blog post.

Using de-identified student-level data, such as financial information from the Indiana Department of Education and Indiana Commission for Higher Education, REL Midwest researchers looked at the 2014 Indiana high school graduates entering Indiana public colleges and the relationship between students’ demographics and academic preparation, receiving different types of financial aid, and four measures of early college success (taking only nonremedial coursework, earning all credits attempted, persisting to a second year, and a composite of all three measures).

Study findings:

  • Early college success varied by student characteristics such as race and academic preparation, and by the type of college in which students enrolled, such as a two- or four-year college.
  • 21st Century Scholarship recipients were more likely to achieve early college success than Pell Grant recipients, even though the population of students who were eligible for both programs was similar.

View the infographic [289 KB PDF icon ] highlighting the study’s key findings.

Report author Lyzz Davis of REL Midwest commented, “Our results showed that students who received 21st Century Scholarships had better early college success outcomes than those who received Pell Grants alone.”

Why is there such a difference in early college success between the two programs? One possible explanation is that students who participate in the 21st Century Scholars program receive college readiness supports throughout middle school and high school, and participate in such college readiness activities as creating a graduation plan, taking career interest assessments, and learning about how to pay for college. Participants in this program also are provided with support resources once they enroll in college.

On the other hand, Pell Grant recipients may not have a high school-level program to provide support before college, and it is up to the colleges in which they enroll to provide supports to students.

Davis noted, “This suggests that taking part in a program that provides college readiness supports during high school could make a difference for students once they get to college. Pell Grant recipients had fewer positive outcomes than their peers, which is consistent with what’s going on elsewhere in the country.” The results suggest that more research is necessary to examine the role of state-provided student aid and support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Jeffrey Hudnall, former executive director of Indiana Network of Knowledge, explained, “The data from this study will help legislators make more informed, data-driven decisions for Hoosier students and families. It will also help provide evidence for the utility of the state’s longitudinal data system.”

The findings from this report will inform policymakers and educators about the relationship between different types of financial aid and early college success among lower income students, and possibly better identify and provide resources for students who are more likely to struggle in college.

“There are a whole host of concerns that come with trying to be successful as a low-income student that are not faced by their higher income peers. This report helps to keep that conversation going and is something that any university system or any district that enrolls low-income students could benefit from,” said Davis.

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Author(s) Information

Marguerite Huber Staff Picture

Marguerite Huber

Communications Associate | REL Midwest


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