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College Access and Student Success: Evaluating the Bridging the Gap Financial Aid Program at Rutgers–Camden

Decades of technological and economic change have dramatically increased the importance of postsecondary education for economic mobility and labor market success. Still, substantial disparities in four-year college enrollment, persistence, and graduation rates remain for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In response to these challenges, colleges and universities across the country are experimenting with financial aid programs in hopes of increasing accessibility and improving student outcomes. In the fall of 2015, the Camden campus of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (Rutgers–Camden), announced plans to implement a financial aid program called Bridging the Gap that would eliminate or substantially reduce the cost of tuition and fees for in-state students from low- and middle-income families. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia is engaged in a multiyear, mixed-methods evaluation of Bridging the Gap to assess its impacts on student success and financial wellbeing.

Navigating the First Semester: How Students Get to and Get by in College

Rutgers

The first report in this series presents findings from interviews conducted with Rutgers–Camden administrators and students who participated in the first cohort of Bridging the Gap, exploring the impact of the program on students’ college application process, transition to college, and financial wellbeing. Qualitative analysis of these interviews provides early evidence that the program has been successful at expanding financially disadvantaged students’ access to a traditional four-year degree program. However, challenges identified in the interviews, including the difficulty of managing ongoing living and educational expenses beyond tuition, emerged as potential obstacles for students’ persistence in college. Additionally, many students struggle to navigate and make sense of program requirements and bureaucratic processes, particularly with respect to financial aid.

Full Report: "Navigating the First Semester: How Students Get to and Get by in College" PDF (20 pages, 984 KB)

More Resources on College Access and Student Loan Debt from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia:

Cascade Focus: Student Loan Trends in the Third Federal Reserve District

This report outlines the recent history of student loan borrowing in the Third Federal Reserve District and explores lending patterns, by the neighborhood income of the borrower, to better understand the implications for low- and moderate-income communities.

Consumer Credit Explorer

This interactive tool enables users to look at quarterly changes in credit use indicators, including student loan debt use and delinquency, from 2005 to 2015, and to compare indicators across different areas.

Working Paper: The Impact of Student Loan Debt on Small Business Formation

This study examines the impact of the growth in student debt on small business formation, finding a negative correlation between changes in student loan debt and net business formation for establishments with four or fewer employees.

Discussion Paper: Student Loan Repayment and College Accountability

This report discusses policy considerations for regulating the disbursement of federal financial aid, balancing the goals of student protection and efficient use of public funds with expanding access to postsecondary education for disadvantaged groups.

Working Paper: Insuring Student Loans Against the Financial Risk of Failing to Complete College

This paper examines whether student loan repayment insurance, in the form of loan forgiveness in the event of failure to complete college, affects student welfare and enrollment and graduation rates.

Working Paper: An Experiment on Information Use in College Student Loan Decisions

This paper reports the results of an experiment in which college students are provided important information about their borrowing options, finding that information alone does not substantially affect students’ borrowing behavior.

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