“Is It Bad I Don’t Know this Yet?”

At-Risk College Students, Financial Aid Knowledge, and Retention

Authors

Keywords:

college students, financial aid, at-risk students, technology, COVID-19, policy

Abstract

This study describes how at-risk students articulate their knowledge of federal financial aid policy during COVID-19. We interviewed 14 students who were on financial aid warning, a status defined by federal financial aid policy regulations, to examine what students understand about their financial aid standing and the criteria to keep their funding. Findings suggest students were often confused about financial aid eligibility criteria, even though they confidently expressed incorrect information about financial aid policies. Moreover, students were uncertain about how to connect with institutional financial aid resources and did not understand that financial aid advising extended beyond their first semester. This study fills multiple gaps in the literature and articulates how institutions can improve students’ understanding of financial aid policy through multiple modes of communication, intentional interventions, and clearer policies. Implications for research, policy, and practice are addressed.

References

Ardoin, M. S. (2013). Learning a different language: Rural students' comprehension of college knowledge and university jargon. [Doctoral dissertation, North Carolina State University]. ProQuest. https://www.proquest.com/docview/1459431858

Asher, L. (2007). Going to the source: A practical way to simplify the FAFSA. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED509350.pdf

Bandura, A. (1977). Social-learning theory. Prentice-Hall.

Bettinger, E., Long, B. T., & Oreopoulos, P. (2009). Increasing postsecondary enrollment among low-income families: A project to improve access to college information and financial aid: The FAFSA H&R Block experiment. Harvard University.

Braxton, J. M., Doyle, W. R., Hartley, H. V., Hirschy, A., Jones, W. A., & McLendon, M. K. (2013). Rethinking college student retention. John Wiley & Sons.

Burd, S., Fishman, R., Keane, L., Habbert, J., Barrett, B., Dancy, K., . . . Williams, B. (2018, June). Decoding the cost of college. New America. https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/policy-papers/decoding-cost-college/

CAL-PASS Plus. (2024). Actionable Data on Education. CAL-PASS Plus. https://www.calpassplus.org/Home

Cox, S. (2019). Satisfactory academic progress: The impact of communications and connections on student perceptions and progression. [Doctoral dissertation, Wingate University]. ProQuest. https://www.proquest.com/docview/2305531091

DesJardins, S. L., Ahlburg, D. A., & McCall, B. P. (2001). Simulating the longitudinal effects of changes in financial aid on student departure from college. The Journal of Human Resources, 37(3), 653–679. https://doi.org/10.2307/3069685

Dowd, A. C. (2004). Income and financial aid effects on persistence and degree attainment in public colleges. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12, 21. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v12n21.2004

Federal Student Aid. (2022). Staying eligible. https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/eligibility/staying-eligible

Feeney, M., & Heroff, J. (2013). Barriers to need-based financial aid: Predictors of timely FAFSA completion among low-income students. Journal of Student Financial Aid, 43(2), 65-85. https://publications.nasfaa.org/jsfa/vol43/iss2/2/

Goldrick-Rab, S., Kelchen, R., Harris, D. N., & Benson, J. (2016). Reducing income inequality in educational attainment: Experimental evidence on the impact of financial aid on college completion. American Journal of Sociology, 121(6), 1762–1817. https://doi.org/10.1086/685442

Hanson, M. (2023). College Dropout Rates. Education Data Initiative. https://educationdata.org/college-dropout-rates

Higher Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (1965).

Higher Education Amendments, 20 U.S.C. § 1001 (1976).

Hossler, D., Ziskin, M., Gross, J. P. K., Kim, S., & Cekic, O. (2009). Student aid and its role in encouraging persistence. In J. C. Smart. (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (vol. 24, pp. 389–426). Springer.

Hypolite, L. I., Kitchen, J. A., & Kezar, A. (2022). Developing major and career self-efficacy among at-promise students: The role of a comprehensive college transition program. Journal of College Student Retention, Research, Theory & Practice, 0(0) 1-25. https://doi.org/10.1177/15210251221138933

John Burton Advocates for Youth. (2021). The Overlooked Obstacle – How Satisfactory Academic Progress Policies Impede Student Success and Equity. John Burton Advocates for Youth. https://jbay.org/resources/overlooked-obstacle/

Krupnick, M. (2022). More students are dropping out of college during Covid — and it could get worse. The Hechinger Report. https://hechingerreport.org/more-students-are-dropping-out-of-college-during-covid-and-it-could-get-worse/

Mayhew, M. J., Rockenbach, A. N., Bowman, N. A., Seifert, T. A., & Wolniak, G. C. (2016). How college affects students: Findings from the 21st century (vol. 3). John Wiley & Sons.

McKinney, L., & Novak, H. (2015). FAFSA filing among first-year college students: Who files on time, who doesn’t, and why does it matter? Research in Higher Education, 56(1), 1-28. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-014-9340-0

McKinnon-Crowley, S. (2022a). A snapshot of financial aid practice during COVID-19. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 46(1-2), 93-100. https://doi.org/10.1080/10668926.2021.1972361

McKinnon-Crowley, S. (2022b). The consequences of a COVID-19 campus: Student and staff views of financial aid practice during the pandemic. Journal of Student Financial Aid, 51(1), 1-20. https://doi.org/10.55504/0884-9153.1786

Mendoza, P., Mendez, J. P., & Malcolm, Z. (2009). Financial aid and persistence in community colleges: Assessing the effectiveness of federal and state financial aid programs in Oklahoma. Community College Review, 37(2), 112–135. https://doi.org/10.1177/0091552109348045

Murdock, T.A. (1987). It isn’t just money: The effects of financial aid on student persistence. The Review of Higher Education, 11(1), 75-101. https://doi.org/10.1353/rhe.1987.0009

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Sources of financial aid. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cuc

Pajares, F. (1997). Current directions in self-efficacy research. Advances in Motivation and Achievement. https://www.dynaread.com/current-directions-in-self-efficacy-research

Perna, L.W. (1998). The contribution of financial aid to undergraduate persistence. Journal of Student Financial Aid, 28(3), 25-40. https://doi.org/10.55504/0884-9153.1103

Pokhrel, S., & Chhetri, R. (2021). A literature review on impact of COVID-19 pandemic on teaching and learning. Higher Education for the Future, 8(1), 133–141. https://doi.org/10.1177/2347631120983481

Rosa, M. L. D. L. (2006). Is opportunity knocking? Low-income students’ perceptions of college and financial aid. American Behavioral Scientist, 49(12), 1670–1686. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764206289139

Rosinger, K. O. (2019). Can simplifying financial aid offers impact college enrollment and borrowing? Experimental and quasi-experimental evidence. Education Finance and Policy, 14(4), 601-626. https://doi.org/10.1162/edfp_a_00260

Saldaña, J. (2016). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (3rd ed.). SAGE.

Saldaña, J., & Omasta, M. (2022). Qualitative research: Analyzing life (2nd ed.). SAGE.

Satisfactory Academic Progress, 34 C.F.R. § 668.34 (2013). Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.

Scott-Clayton, J. (2015). The role of financial aid in promoting college access and success: Research evidence and proposals for reform. Journal of Student Financial Aid, 45(3), 7-22. https://doi.org/10.55504/0884-9153.1586

Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. SAGE.

Talusan, L., & Franke, R. (2019). (Un)fulfilling requirements: Satisfactory academic progress and its impact on first-generation, low-income, Asian American students. Journal of Critical Scholarship on Higher Education and Student Affairs, 5(1), 15-28. https://ecommons.luc.edu/jcshesa/vol5/iss1/3/

Taylor, Z. W. (2019). Six easy steps: Do aspiring college students understand how to apply for financial aid? Journal of Student Financial Aid, 48(3), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.55504/0884-9153.1643

Taylor, Z. W., & Bicak, I. (2019). What is the FAFSA? An adult learner knowledge survey of student financial aid jargon. Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1177/1477971418824607

Tierney, W.G. & Venegas, K.M. (2009). Finding money on the table: Information, financial aid, and access to college. The Journal of Higher Education, 80(4), 363-388. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2009.11779021

Whiting, G. W. (2006). From at risk to at promise: Development scholar identities among Black males. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, XVII(4), 222-229. https://doi.org/10.4219/jsge-2006-407

Vaughn, C. (2020). Reasons for academic attrition among rural community college students by way of satisfactory academic progress [Doctoral dissertation, Murray State University]. Murray State Digital Commons. https://digitalcommons.murraystate.edu/etd/208/

Downloads

Published

2024-06-30

How to Cite

Rainey, E., & Taylor, Z. (2024). “Is It Bad I Don’t Know this Yet?”: At-Risk College Students, Financial Aid Knowledge, and Retention. Higher Education Politics and Economics, 10(2), 1–23. Retrieved from https://ojed.org/index.php/hepe/article/view/6439