A study released today on community college students in Louisiana reports the amount of financial aid students received had no significant impact on student academic success. The strongest predictor, instead, was academic preparation. Researchers found the more developmental courses students need, the less likely they are to succeed.
Can Financial Aid Improve Student Success at Louisiana's Community Colleges? was conducted for the Louisiana board of regents by Kevin Crockett and Mark Heffron of Noel-Levitz, a higher education consulting firm with offices in Iowa and Colorado, and Mark Schneider of the American Institutes for Research, a social-science research nonprofit in Washington.
"These findings raise fundamental questions about how to address the needs of students who are not college-ready. Many students who need developmental education have less than a one in 10 chance of succeeding. Admitting them to community college may not be fair to students, many of whom have taken time out of the labor market, paid tuition, and taken loans to finance their education. It may also not be fair to taxpayers, who pay for the state subsidies to community colleges and other state aid programs," said Schneider, a vice president at AIR, in a press statement
Researchers focused on full-time students at two-year colleges and measured success as a student who earned a certificate or an associate degree within three years of enrolling or if he or she transferred to a four-year Louisiana college within the same time frame.
The study discovered 28 percent of students who did not enroll in any developmental courses were successful, while taking just one developmental education course cut student-success rates in half, regardless of whether they received federal aid through a Pell Grant. Receiving a Pell Grant did not help students do better when compared with those with similar economic backgrounds and equivalent academic preparation. Students with Pell Grants succeeded at slightly lower rates than those students without grants.