Worse than Pell!

Cranky (aka John Butcher) has been nosing around the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) database and come up with some interesting numbers comparing the graduation rate for students receiving different types of financial aid.

As seen in the chart above, the students graduating within four, five and six years at the lowest rate are those receiving assistance from the Virginia Commonwealth Award. As Cranky describes it bluntly, VCA is “subsidizing failure” more than any other source of financial aid. That’s quite an accomplishment considering that even the federal Pell program for low-income students out-performed VCA.

What do we know about the Virginia Commonwealth Award? There’s not much available online — mainly this fact sheet published by SCHEV:

The purpose of the Virginia Commonwealth Award is to assist undergraduate students with financial need and graduate students to pay part of their college costs. The funds are appropriated directly to each state supported institution. Funds may be used for need-based grants to Virginia resident undergraduates or for grants or assistantships to graduate students (both in-state and out-of-state). The law requires that the awards to undergraduates be proportional to need so that the students with the greatest need receive the largest awards.

Not that I looked at that hard, but I couldn’t find any document detailing how much money the VCA hands out each year or, more importantly, what the default rate is on loans. If the graduation rate of VCA students is lower than that of federal loans, and federal loans are experiencing significant defaults, it is logical to assume that the VCA is experiencing major defaults as well. Who is managing this program? Is anyone tracking the numbers?

Read John’s thoughts over at Cranky’s Blog. (By the way, I liked John’s headline so much that I stole it for my own post.)

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4 responses to “Worse than Pell!

  1. I’d be curious to hear Steve’s view.

  2. Larry, bless your heart!

    One data points is missing, and I’ve been a fan of Cranky since we worked under the same roof two decades ago so I hope he will add it –

    What are the completion rates for people who receive no form of financial aid and come from low income households? He only provides (and may only have) the data for all people receiving no aid (which I would equate to mainly, uh, rich people with no athletic skills.) Interestingly, even they don’t have 100 percent completion rates.

    Now, there may not be any low income students who do not qualify for something – but I would still like a control group. The one control group we have is the group of students who don’t even try, and their 6-year completion rate is zip. Absent that comparison point I am not going to reject the Pell or Commonwealth Grant program as “subsidizing failure” if indeed they are 1/2 or 2/3 of the time providing an enhanced possibility of success.

    I don’t even want to know what the War on Poverty has cost in my lifetime and all we have to show for it IMHO is more poverty (but better fed poor people more likely to have a Medicaid card.) The absolute last of the anti-poverty programs I want killed are those that encourage education.

    But the students in the programs need to show commitment and progress to stay in them, and the school recruiters need to be realistic in getting the students into realistic programs for their ability. There is too much financial incentive for the schools to keep the kids on the rolls even if they see it has become futile. They also need skin in this game. Cranky is dead right that the system ain’t close to perfect. The students in Pell and the state grant program should get the same level of academic coaching and support as the athletes get – now THERE is a Title 9 provision I could love!

  3. re:The students in Pell and the state grant program should get the same level of academic coaching and support as the athletes get – now THERE is a Title 9 provision I could love!”

    well obviously Steve that’s because Athletics “pays for itself”, right?

    some folks look at money spent and the problem is not 100% fixed. Others look at it and count the ones that succeeded that would not have and count that as better than no program.

    The standard some folks use… they’d count VDOT spending as a “failure” because we still have congestion and accidents… obviously the money spent did not “fix” the problem.

  4. Kee-rect. The schools worry more about a star fullback failing out than they do some kid from a blue collar household who is far less likely to win a game or make a $1 million bequest in 30 years…That is a harsh thing for me to say and I know that is not always true. The pressure on better completion rates (efficiency) has many schools working much harder to help these kids.

    My entire (public!) high school experience was focused college prep – the teachers were quite open about it. One year every English test I took was in the SAT format. My government teacher said this is a college level class and I want you to keep a notebook on my lectures and I will examine it regularly. There was no textbook. The Major American Writers class had a long reading list. My freshman year I noticed how better prepared I was than many other students. The study skills are something that must be taught.

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