Money Matters

How Financial Aid Affects Nontraditional Students in Community Colleges

By Victoria Choitz, Rebecca Widom

In recent years, interest has grown in the role community colleges can play in helping low-wage workers advance out of poverty and toward economic self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, high attrition rates among these nontraditional students limit community colleges’ success in this arena. MDRC has identified three strategies that might enable colleges to serve working adults more effectively: enhanced student services; curricular and instructional innovation; and, the focus of this paper, supplemental student financial aid. Examining federal, state, and institutional programs, the paper presents a framework for understanding challenges to securing comprehensive financial assistance for low-income working students. The paper identifies promising approaches for supplementing student financial aid based on a range of programs implemented in the past and planned for the future. It also raises issues that bear consideration in designing a program that would be both effective in ways that can be measured through random assignment studies and replicable.

Document Details

Publication Type
July 2003
Choitz, Victoria and Rebecca Widom. 2003. Money Matters. New York: MDRC.