ERIC Number: EJ952764
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Reference Count: N/A
Do Merit-Aid Programs Help States Build Skilled Workforces?
Groen, Jeffrey A.
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, v43 n6 p33-37 2011
One of the major developments in financing undergraduate education in the United States in the past 20 years has been the introduction of broad-based merit-aid programs by state governments. The typical program waives tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for state residents who have attained a respectable grade-point average (typically a 3.0, or B, average) in high school. Merit-aid programs have several goals. They include reducing the cost of attending college for students and their families, increasing student effort and academic achievement in high school and college, and promoting college attendance and completion. But perhaps the most important goal is increasing the number of college-educated workers in the state. Given the fundamental effects of education on the economic vitality of states, it is understandable that policymakers wish to increase the skill level of state residents by inducing them to attend and graduate from college and then to stay in the state. But how effective are merit-aid programs in achieving this goal? In this article, the author evaluates the potential connection between merit aid and post-college outcomes. How does merit aid affect state residents' decisions about: (1) whether and where to go to college; and (2) where to live and work after college? The author's review of the evidence suggests that broad-based merit-aid programs have a relatively small effect on the supply of college-educated labor in a state. These programs increase participation in postsecondary education, but most of the money goes to students who would have attended college anyway. The programs do have a large effect on those students' choice of where to attend college, thereby increasing the share of eligible students who attend college in state. However, the ultimate effect of that shift on college graduates' retention in the state's workforce is modest. Alternatives to merit aid should be examined. Most states have need-based aid programs, but there are few well-designed studies of the effects of these programs on college attendance and completion. Location-contingent aid offers an alternative way for states to structure financial assistance to students, but programs of this type have yet to be rigorously evaluated. Researchers should identify particular programs that can be evaluated and examine the effects of location-contingent aid on location decisions of college graduates. Better research should help policymakers decide--in this period of tight state budgets--whether to expand or contract merit-aid programs in their states. (Contains 1 table and 13 resources.)
Descriptors: Undergraduate Study, Undergraduate Students, Economic Impact, State Government, Merit Scholarships, Academic Achievement, Student Financial Aid, Human Capital, Education Work Relationship, Program Effectiveness, Skilled Workers, Skilled Occupations, Public Colleges, Eligibility, College Attendance, College Graduates
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Two Year Colleges
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States