The Chronicle reported yesterday that the Obama Administration intends to abolish merit-based financial aid programs for low-income students that were established in 2006. The short life of the Academic Competitiveness and National Smart Grant programs will not allow sufficient time to collect evidence in order to assess the effectiveness of the merit-based system. Such questions as
a) Is the program successful in improving high school preparedness for college?will remain unanswered. Instead, Obama and the Department of Education plan is to shift all of these resources into making the Pell Grant an entitlement. Don't get me wrong--I believe that the Pell Grant is a great program, but evidence suggests that federal financial aid has done little to increase the percentage of high school students attending and completing college. It would be sound policy to let the merit program play out long enough in order to evaluate its effectiveness relative to other programs. What happened to pragmatism?
b) Do recipients of the merit grants perform better in college and graduate at higher rates than non-recipient low-income students?
c) Are the grant award amounts sufficient incentive for recipients to enter and complete college?