Innovative Ways to Use Financial Aid for Student Retention The following is a presentation prepared for MASFAA’s 2009 Conference in Minneapolis, MN October 18-21, 2009 Gisella Baker, Associate Director of Financial Aid Hawkeye Community College-Waterloo, Iowa Revae Nelson, Assistant Director of Student Financial Services Carleton College-Northfield, Minnesota
Agenda • Retention Definition • Hawkeye Community College • The College of St. Scholastica • Texas A&M University • University of Texas at Austin • Other Retention Efforts From Financial Aid Offices • Wrap Up
Retention Retention—student success that is shaped by learning-centered environment, which focuses on the needs, expectations and goals of our diverse students by promoting successful learning partnerships through completion of college studies that are aligned to the academic and social achievement aspirations of students. From Wikipedia Dictionary
Retention is not just for Financial Aid Offices • Financial Aid • Admissions • Academic Services • Curriculum and instruction • Student Services (Miller and Redd 2003)
What can the financial aid office do? • Provide information to families • Increase availability of need-based aid • Creative packaging (Miller and Redd 2003)
When FAO has a Negative Effect on Retention • System implementation • Lack of staff training • Verification beyond minimum requirement • Limiting loan debt (MacCallum 2008)
When FAO has a Positive Effect on Retention • Work-study students employed in financial aid office • Length of time to process financial aid (MacCallum 2008)
High Gap • Predicts low retention when considered alone • Highly correlated with academic preparedness • Lack of merit awards • Apply late in financial aid process (Memo: Retention Statistics Deserve Nuanced Analysis, Hardwick Day Retention Research)
Affordability not the only factor in retention • High gap students will continue if results are worth the struggle • Exception – High gap students with low GPA first semester (Memo: Retention Statistics Deserve Nuanced Analysis, Hardwick Day Retention Research)
Significant variables • Class load • Work-study • Aid application status • Distance from campus • Number HS classmates admitted (It Takes More than Just Sunshine, Hardwick Day Retention Research)
GPA above 2.7 • Retention increased • Deposit early • Pell grant recipient • Women athletes • Male non-athletes • Retention decreased • Gap more than $13,500 (It Takes More than Just Sunshine, Hardwick Day Retention Research)
Low Income Students • No correlation between chance of receiving gift aid and retention of freshmen. • Academic performance benefits retention • Amount and type of gift aid does not matter after academics are considered (Herzog 2008)
High Income Students • Ineligible for need-based aid • Retention improved by gift aid • Amount of gift aid minimally affects retention (Herzog 2008)
Initiatives • Faculty Mentoring Program • Early Alert Student Program • Helping Hands Mentoring Program • Developmental Studies Orientation • Faculty Mini Grants • Reading Infusion Strategies • Technology Training/Room Equipment • Student Success Strategy: • SAP & the Yes, You Can • Seminar!
What is the Yes, You Can Program? A program designed to equip and empower students placed on Academic and Financial Aid Suspension toward future success in college.
Student Success Strategy • SAP & the Yes You Can Philosophy • Team approach • Positive approach • You CAN make it! • Developmental approach • Develop successful students • Provide on-going support services
Putting the Pieces Together KNOW YOUR STUDENTS! 1500-1800 student exit interviews in two years
Process of Building our Program • Pulled together key staff members on our campus • Identified student issues • Developed a program & asked for suggestions • Faculty groups in all academic disciplines • All college divisions • Administrative groups • Board of Trustees • Made program mandatory • Academic Standards and Issues • Probation Suspension Committee • Financial Aid SAP Appeal Process • Put together continuing support services • Student Success Opportunities-workshops • Continually assess & redesign our program
First-year college GPA earned by nearly 1,500 students who withdrew from school at 46 institutions* GPA number % <2.00 689 46.1 2.00-2.49 248 16.6 2.50-2.99 256 17.1 3.00-4.00 300 20.1 *2001 Noel Levitz. Inc.
Why Students Leave Hawkeye • Health-related problems • Conflicts between demands of job & college • Dissatisfied with grades • Inadequate study habits • Accepted a full-time job • Unexpected expenses • Family responsibilities too great • Emotional problems • Didn’t receive financial aid
Program Design • Sign in • Program presentation • Work session
Issues Addressed in YYC • Health • Money • Family Problems • Course Difficulties • Personal Concerns • Academic Concerns • Career Direction • Time Management • Personal Behaviors
Evolvement of Yes You Can • Continue Review • Survey of written SAP appeals • Update of Data Elements • Other key players? • Create other ways of dissemination of session: web and DVDs. • Create other components: tutorials
Future of Yes You Can • Update Issues per survey • Re-tape the session • Add student testimonials
A Dollar Perspective • Without intervention (retention effort) possible loss to the school: $128 per credit x 100 students x 12 credit hours = $153,600+ books + cafeteria
Interactive Case Study Your group is to consider three questions using a case study: What interventions does this student need? Who are the key players on your campus that should be involved to get the services this student needs?What barriers do you foresee for a retention program such as “Yes, You Can”?
Retention Efforts • St. Scholastica does not have a formal retention policy. • It does have a retention plan headed by St. Scholastica’s Dean of Students and the Assistant Dean of Students for Advisement and Retention. • The plan includes key programs and early intervention. • Most of these are front loaded, meaning they focus on the first-year freshman.
Retention Plan • Primarily focuses on academic performance and social integration. • There is no tracking of financial aid characteristics such as the date of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and applying for loans. • No information is provided or solicited on students who have not completed the FAFSA or applied for loans.
Retention Programs • Freshman Orientation: All first-year students – college orientation, register for classes, and assessments (chemistry and language assessment) • First Year Development Program (FYDP): Students with low institutional scores, high academic risk • Welcome Weekend: All first-year students required to attend Dignitas • All first-year student – learning community with common theme • First Step Program: First-year, transfer, and undecided students – chance to meet with faculty from intended major • Summer Bridge Program: Required transition program for FYDP students • There are over 40 different retention efforts for fall alone (SAP is one)
Research on Improving Retention Three St Scholastica staff members, including Trish Johnson (Associate Director of Financial Aid) did a very comprehensive research that looked at student attributes and their impact on persistence. The study incorporated and analyzed financial aid, pre- and post-student attributes, and financial aid leveraging. From the results, they were able to offer recommendations that would improve St. Scholastica’s retention efforts.
Research Findings • Intended Major did not seem to be an influence with persistence. • Nearly 60% of the 2004 cohort did not formally tour campus prior to enrollment. • Students who came from family incomes of $0 to $20,000 have a 29% probability of withdrawing compared to 7% of students with family of $80,000 to $100,000. • Surprisingly, 76% of first-generation students persisted compared to 24% who did not. • Early and late financial aid FAFSA filers demonstrated an even pace and similar pattern when doing this, so this was not a big factor when withdrawing. • The higher the first year GPA, the more likely they persist. • 90% of athletes are likely to persist. • 82% of work-study students persisted, but similar rates were for those who did not have a work-study award and did not persist.
Research Findings-Cont. Figure 17. Official withdrawal summary at St. Scholastica. Note. From “Official Withdrawal Summary,” by the College of St. Scholastica Student Affairs Department, 2008. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Research Recommendations • Among many, the ones relevant to financial aid were: • 1. Need to analyze the impact of Financial Aid on persistence and develop strategic financial aid policies: • Tuition has increased 464% in the last 24 years • How Financial Aid is now being disbursed from federal, state, institutional and external sources. • Evaluate transfer students since based on literature, they have the • highest attrition rate. • Research more student employment and its benefits since studies show that those working on campus are likely to persist at higher rates. • Research pros/cons of moving away from blind admission to reduce attrition by verifying ability to pay. Alternative loan use has increased 524% in a three year period and with the current economy situation, banks have limit the amount students can borrow.
St. Scholastica SAP policy Students on probation must develop a plan for academic improvement with the coordinator of academic advising or the director of academic support services. This may include use of the tutor center, developmental courses and/or reduction in work hours and extracurricular activities. Probation precludes holding elective office, participating in athletics or theatre productions or any other time-consuming extracurricular activities. Eligibility for varsity sports will be determined each semester. For the purposes of financial aid, students working under a plan to improve will be considered making satisfactory progress during the probationary term.
Regents’ Scholarship • Offered for 4 years • Family AGI less than $40,000 • First generation college students • Financial need • Texas resident
Requirements • Live on Campus • Attend orientation sessions • Attend Fall Reception and Spring Banquet • Participate in learning communities
Orientation • Begins before start of classes • Monthly basis • Representatives from different campus offices • Sit with learning communities