Impacts of Need-Based Grants on STEM Success

college student

This study will estimate the impact of a need-based financial grant on students’ selection of, continued enrollment in, and successful completion of associate and baccalaureate degrees in key science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM) programs. The project follows 1,600 undergraduates from low and moderate-income families enrolled in 10 Wisconsin colleges and universities. One thousand students were awarded grants funded through the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation. These grantees will serve as the treatment group for the study.

The study will track both the grant recipients and non-grant recipients for up to five years. An integrated longitudinal database will capture their behaviors and outcomes using administrative and transcript data merged with student surveys and detailed time diary data obtained via text-messaging. Then, researchers will conduct average and disaggregated analyses of the aid’s impact on accustomed outcomes (e.g., choice of STEM major, completed credits in STEM, year-to-year persistence, completion of STEM degree, and in the case of two-year college students, achievement of employment in a STEM field), as well as largely unexamined aspects of the STEM behavioral experience, such as work-study balance, time use, depth of commitment to studies, interaction with faculty and peers, and participation in undergraduate research. Differences across underserved populations, i.e., race/ethnicity and gender, and types of STEM program will be examined to detect any differential benefits. The results will help higher education experts understand how students’ financial constraints affect STEM pathways, and assist those funding financial aid to strategically disburse it to enhance the success of underserved populations in STEM.

If you have questions about the project, please contact Alison Bowman:


Sara Goldrick-Rab, Founder, Wisconsin HOPE Lab and Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Josipa Roksa, Associate Professor of Sociology and Education, University of Virginia 

Jed Richardson, Acting Director, Wisconsin HOPE Lab

Alison Bowman, Associate Director, Wisconsin HOPE Lab

Nathan Jones, Assistant Professor, Boston University

Gregory Kienzl, Senior Research Associate, ACT, Inc.

John Stevenson, Associate Director, UW Survey Center

Tara Piché, Project Director, UW Survey Center

Jacek Krasewski, Project Director, UW Survey Center

Emily Brunjes Colo, Data Analyst, Wisconsin HOPE Lab

Peter Kinsley, Senior Researcher, Wisconsin HOPE Lab

Advisory Board

Lisa Dickson, University Maryland, Baltimore County
David Ferguson, Stony Brook University
Judith C. Miner, Foothill College
Robert Shireman, The Century Foundation
Liang Zhang, Penn State


Data Briefs

Wisconsin HOPE Lab.*** "What We’re Learning: Who Works for Degrees?". Wisconsin HOPE Lab Data Brief 16-05. (2016)

Wisconsin HOPE Lab.*** "What We’re Learning: Prevalence of and Responses to Financial Stress Among Undergraduates".

Wisconsin HOPE Lab Data Brief 16-04. (2016)Wisconsin HOPE Lab.*** "What We’re Learning: Student Time Use ". Wisconsin HOPE Lab Data Brief 16-03. (2016)

Wisconsin HOPE Lab.*** "What We’re Learning: Student Financial Contributions to Families". Wisconsin HOPE Lab Data Brief 16-02. (2016)

Wisconsin HOPE Lab.*** "What We’re Learning: Food and Housing Insecurity among College Students". Wisconsin HOPE Lab Data Brief 16-01. (2016)

Wisconsin HOPE Lab. 2015. "What We're Learning: Satisfactory Academic Progress". Wisconsin HOPE Lab Data Brief 15-01.

Wisconsin HOPE Lab. 2015. "What We're Learning: FAFSA". Wisconsin HOPE Lab Data Brief 15-02.

*** Wisconsin HOPE Lab creates and publishes data and policy briefs as an interdisciplinary team of Ph.D. researchers. When no author is listed, that publication is the result of a collaborative effort.


HOPE LAB study secures $4 million grant
On October 14, 2014, the Wisconsin HOPE Lab was presented with a $4 million grant from Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates. The grant will fund a five-year study involving scholarships to students at 10 Wisconsin colleges and universities. Read more here.

Great Lakes to support UW initiatives to increase number of STEM graduates

Study Sponsors

Great Lakes     NSF     Lumina Foundation