Study Finds That Academic Preparation is More Important Than Financial Aid in the Success of Students at Louisiana Community Colleges

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Research from Noel-Levitz and AIR finds that directing additional financial aid to community college students would not dramatically increase their success.

This study shows that improving community college student success in Louisiana hinges more on addressing student educational deficiencies before they show up on campus than it does on meeting students’ financial need when they are ready to begin college.

With community colleges now enrolling over one-third of the nation’s postsecondary students, states are searching for cost-effective strategies to improve student retention and completion in their two-year colleges.

A new study, based on research by Noel-Levitz and the American Institutes for Research (AIR), found that directing additional financial aid to degree-seeking community college students would not dramatically increase their success. The research project was conducted on behalf of the Louisiana Board of Regents and measured the relationship between federal, state, and institutional gift aid (scholarships and grants that do not have to be repaid) and student success rates among community college students in Louisiana.

The findings, published in a report, “Can Financial Aid Improve Student Success at Louisiana’s Community Colleges?” include:

  •     For full-time, degree-seeking community college students, academic preparation is a stronger predictor of student success than level of financial aid.
  •     Community college students who needed to take developmental education courses are far less likely to complete a degree or transfer to a four-year university than students who required no developmental courses.
  •     After controlling for academic preparation, the level of students’ financial need that is met with gift aid is only weakly associated with their degree completion or transfer to a four-year university.
  •     Even with a substantial increase in financial aid levels, community colleges in Louisiana probably would not see a significant increase in degree completion or transfer rates.

The new study is part of a series of research studies conducted with the generous support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Previous research by Noel-Levitz and AIR examined the impact of financial aid on degree completion at Louisiana’s statewide and regional universities. Parallel research is under way in the State of Oklahoma with additional reports planned for 2012.

According to Kevin Crockett, Noel-Levitz president and CEO, “Given the fiscal constraints faced by states across the country, it is imperative that each state’s resources are used as wisely as possible. This study shows that improving community college student success in Louisiana hinges more on addressing student educational deficiencies before they show up on campus than it does on meeting students’ financial need when they are ready to begin college.”

For a full copy of the study, visit http://www.noellevitz.com/PellStudy
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Noel-Levitz
Noel-Levitz has consulted with more than 2,700 public and private colleges and universities across North America, helping these campuses and systems reach and exceed their goals for student recruitment, financial aid, student retention and completion, and strategic enrollment management. In addition, Noel-Levitz convenes events attended by more than 5,000 educators each year and produces reports, papers, and columns to help campus leaders analyze current enrollment trends and discover more effective strategies.
American Institutes for Research
The American Institutes for Research (AIR), founded in 1946, is a not-for-profit corporation engaged in independent research, development, evaluation, and analysis in the behavioral and social sciences. In serving a range of government and private clients, AIR strives to bring the best science to bear on programs and policy that improve peoples' lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.
The Louisiana Board of Regents
The Louisiana Constitution authorizes the Board of Regents to plan, coordinate, and have budgetary responsibility for Louisiana's public higher education community, including public colleges, universities, and/or professional schools that enroll approximately 225,000 students. The agency also serves as the state liaison to Louisiana's accredited, independent institutions of higher learning. The Board of Regents is a policy-making and coordinating board only, with the responsibility for day-to-day operations of the various college campuses reserved for the state's four higher education management boards.

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