States use financial aid as incentive to graduate

Tim Goral's picture

Every year states hand out more than $11 billion in financial aid to college students with no certainty as to whether they’ll ever graduate.

Many states don’t track the money. They simply hand it over and hope for the best, as one educational consultant put it.

It’s a “one-sided partnership,” according to Stan Jones, the president of the advocacy organization Complete College America. “The states provide the funds, but the expectations states have of students are really pretty low.”

In Indiana, for instance, only around 40 percent of aid recipients will earn their four-year degrees in even six years, state figures show. That’s lower than the state average for all students. And while 75 percent may be certain they’re on schedule, only half will end up taking the minimum number of credits they need, per semester, to get through.

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