Altering Expectations: How Changing a Merit Scholarship Program’s Payout Structure Affects Student Postsecondary Enrollment Choices


  • Katherine Kopotic University of Arkansas
  • Jonathan N. Mills University of Arkansas
  • Evan Rhinesmith


Keywords: financial aid, merit scholarships, college enrollment, post-secondary institutions, difference-in-differences


While the popularity of state-financed merit-based scholarships has increased since the 1980s, policymakers struggle to maintain these programs because of growing costs. Some have tried to manage this tradeoff through eligibility changes or award amounts; however, little empirical research exists on the effectiveness of these changes. We add to the financial aid literature by determining if college enrollment responded to a 2013 restructuring of Arkansas’s Academic Challenge Scholarship from equal annual awards to a backloaded system with progressively higher payouts to students who persisted. We identify no statistically significant impacts associated with the 2013 change; however, point estimates are generally negative. We believe this is the first study to examine if moving to a backloaded payout structure affects college enrollment.


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How to Cite

Kopotic , K., Mills, J. N., & Rhinesmith, E. (2021). Altering Expectations: How Changing a Merit Scholarship Program’s Payout Structure Affects Student Postsecondary Enrollment Choices. Higher Education Politics and Economics, 7(1), 72–98. Retrieved from



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