The second report in this series provides a mixed-methods look at the inaugural Bridging the Gap cohort’s first full year of college, complementing analysis of enrollment and academic performance data with insights from student interviews. Early results suggest positive impacts on enrollment among lower-income students, although it is unclear whether observed improvements in academic performance are attributable to the program. Interviews with participants suggest the program improved affordability and reduced financial stress but illuminate challenges with the financial aid process and maintaining eligibility.
How Does Last-Dollar Financial Aid Affect First-Year Student Outcomes? Evidence from the Bridging the Gap Study
In the fall of 2015, the Camden campus of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (Rutgers–Camden), announced plans to implement a last-dollar financial aid program called Bridging the Gap that would eliminate or substantially reduce the cost of tuition and certain fees for in-state students from lower- and middle-income families.