The Chronicle of Higher Education (this link is subscription only, this link will stay free for five days) reports on a study that appears to show that academic success is the greatest factor in keeping lower-income students enrolled. This study is from Serge Herzog, UNVR.
For each one-letter grade increase in their grade-point average, students from families with expected contributions of $4,000 or less were 15 percent more likely to stay in college, he found. Students with an expected family contribution between $4,000 and $10,000 were 10 percent more likely to return for a second year for each one-letter grade rise in their grade-point average.
The oddity in this study is that it found that increased financial assistance is needed for higher-income students.
In his paper, Mr. Herzog also concludes that students from higher-income families are more likely to persist in college when given grants or scholarships than are their counterparts from lower-income families when given those forms of aid.
It seems counter-intuitive but Herzog says,
“Lower-income students get a large proportion of their aid in form of need-based grants that are not tied to academic performance and thus reduce the potential cost of failure,” he explained in an e-mail message. “Conversely, high-income students have more of an investment risk because most of their aid is merit-based,” and they may lose that aid “in the event of academic failure.”
Read the whole article and hopefully I can find time to read his paper, available here.