Academic journal article Community College Review

What Influences Student Persistence at Two-Year Colleges?

Academic journal article Community College Review

What Influences Student Persistence at Two-Year Colleges?

Article excerpt

The Higher Education Act of 1992 increased the availability of student loan funds dramatically. Using the National Student Postsecondary Aid Study, this study examines the difference in effects of background, achievement and aspiration, college experience, price variables, and accumulated debt in 1993 as compared to 1996 on student persistence decisions. In contrast with previous studies using NPSAS:87, the authors find that there is more financial aid available, albeit in the form of loans. Current year subsidies are positively associated with persistence, but the opposite is true for accumulated debt, except for higher debt levels in 1996. The authors provide context and explanation for these findings.


What is the effect of student financial aid, expanded by the Higher Education Act Reauthorization of 1992, on persistence of students at two-year colleges? The research literature on the impact of aid at two-year schools is sparse and generally does not examine post-1992 effects. This study uses a multidisciplinary model to explore the effects of background, achievement, college experience, price, and accumulated debt on two-year student persistence in 1993 as compared to 1996.


Two pieces of legislation stand out historically in the funding of colleges and students, and both take different approaches. The first concrete expression of the federal role in financing higher education, the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 (Pub. L. 97-98), gave public land, or its equivalent, for the "support of at least one college in every state" (Rudolph, 1990, p. 252). The Morrill Act philosophy was one of indirect benefit to students through funding institutions.

The second historic piece of legislation was the Servicemen's Readjustment Act (GI Bill) (38 U.S.C. [subsection] 3451-4393, 38 C.F.R. 21.1020). The act included stipends for veterans attending postsecondary education institutions, tuition payments to the schools, and unemployment benefits (the 52-20 Club; veterans unemployment benefits of $20 per week for 52 weeks). The lasting legacy of the GI Bill, though, was to provide educational benefits directly to students without regard to gender, ethnicity, creed, or religion.

The launch of Sputnik in 1957 gave birth to the first large-scale student loan program. Fearful that the United States was lagging in science and technical education, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act of 1958 (20 U.S.C. [section] 401) which created a number of efforts to promote education in science, including the National Defense Student Loan Program (now Perkins Loans) and a fellowship program for graduate study (20 U.S.C. [subsection] 1987aa-1087hh, 34 C.F.R. Part 674).

Under the rubric of the "Great Society," the Higher Education Act (HEA) (20 U.S.C. [section] 1001 et seq.) formed the cornerstone of federal higher education policy. The Higher Education Act of 1965 consolidated several previously enacted anti-poverty measures with programs whose major intention was the provision of access to higher education for poor and talented students (Keppel, 1987; Kimberling, 1995). The Higher Education Act of 1965 merged the National Defense Education Loan Program of NDEA (20 U.S.C. [section] 401), the College Facilities Act of 1963 (20 U.S.C. [section] 701), and the College Work-Study Program (42 U.S.C. [subsection] 2751-2756(a), 34 C.F.R. (Part 675) and created two new financial aid programs: the Educational Opportunity Grant (EOG) (20 U.S.C. [subsection] 1070b-1070b-3, 34 C.F.R. Part 676) and the Guaranteed Student Loan Program (GSL) (20 U.S.C. [subsection] 1087aa-1087hh, 34 C.F.R. Part 674) (Kimberling, 1995).

The original legislation creating the Higher Education Act of 1965 was the result of two competing ideologies for federal funding of higher education. The first was that of assisting higher education by funneling funds directly to institutions through an all-encompassing formula based on student headcounts. …

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