Merit based scholarships and student migration

A 2011 study entitled, “State Merit Based Scholarship Programs Influence on Outmigration” by Joseph A. Williams and John Burczek Dreier looked at state based merit scholarship programs and the influence of these programs on migration on students.

Included are key points as relating to Georgia’ Hope Scholarship program and findings…

“The first such program was the Georgia Hope Scholarship Program, which initially awarded students with full tuition to Georgia public institutions if they met certain high school GPA requirements. Fourteen other states have enacted similar policies since 1993, offering tuition discounts based on academic credentials (Orsuwan & Heck, 2009).
More recent state merit based scholarship programs enacted since the Georgia Hope Scholarship Program varied in funding source, award criteria, and award amount. While most state programs were funded through lottery revenues, other states utilized one time litigation settlement agreements to fund scholarship programs (Orsuwan & Heck, 2009). Furthermore, each state had distinct criteria regarding award criteria: GPA, SAT, ACT, class rank, state tests, or any combination of these account for the measures used to allocate awards. The award amounts were just as varied as the award criteria: full tuition and fees for four years or a one-time award of $1,000 were two extremes. Regardless of the funding source, criteria, and award amount, prior research depicted the influence of state merit based scholarship programs on students’ enrollment within their home state for higher education (Orsuwan & Heck, 2009).
The objective to retain residents in their home state for college was the short-term objective of state merit based aid programs. The long-term goal of some the state merit based aid policy initiative was to keep college graduates in state. Given a state’s investment, retaining its college graduates was critical to a state’s economic development. Strathman (2004) found that college graduates leaving their state upon graduation negatively impacted state appropriations for higher education. Further, social benefits associated with college graduates—lower unemployment, higher tax revenues, and voter participation—were often cited as valuable assets for states (Baum & Ma, 2007). Recent findings indicated that students receiving state merit based scholarships were 74% more inclined to leave that state upon college graduation (Ishitani, 2011). This troubling finding suggested that state merit based scholarship programs, regardless of their influence on high school student migration, may lead to unintended consequences such as outmigration of college graduates. Although this study will focus on migration of high school graduates, understanding students’ mobility post-college is an aspect that cannot be ignored and is a subject requiring additional research.
Purpose of the Study
Previous research delved into various issues related to student migration following high school. In many instances, studies conducted extensive state level analysis aiming to address how specific policies at a single state affect student enrollment patterns. For example, Groen (2003) studied migration effects in Georgia given the goals of the Hope Scholarship Program. However, he primarily focuses on migration of Georgia Hope recipients once graduating from college. In addition, Hickman (2009) aimed to study how Florida’s Bright Futures Program related to student migration out of state. These studies were valuable at the state level, and they have indicated a need for a national study of state merit based scholarship programs. Orsuwan & Heck (2009) recently studied how state scholarship dollars and pre-paid tuition plans affected migration.”

“The findings of our research demonstrate the presence of state merit based scholarship
programs influencing residents to stay in their home state for higher education. This finding only partially affirms what policy makers intended to influence with the enactment of programs such as the Georgia Hope Scholarship (Zhang & Ness, 2010).”

“Our study also poses some interesting questions for how policy makers interpret research findings on tuition pricing and outmigration. Given the insignificant findings of tuition prices at two- and four-year public institutions, further research is needed to more acutely measure tuition net-price, which accounts for tuition less any financial aid. Our study urges future policy makers to address the notion of net-price of tuition by creating better national data collection on the net-price, which would improve research examining student migration patterns. The recent National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) initiative to collect more robust data on institutional net-price has potential to more accurately derive metrics of tuition net-price for future research.
Another consideration for policy is that our results illustrate that state appropriations have influence in decreasing outmigration. Our research shows that as state appropriations increased, out-of-state migration decreased. This result is important to consider for state legislators as they reflect on the future of state merit based scholarship programs. Additionally, assessing the effectiveness of these programs is important during turbulent budget years, as many costly programs are discontinued or phased out.”

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