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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Role of Financial Aid in Enrollment Management #THESISit

I experienced a role dissonance situation at work yesterday, my colleague told me that I shouldn't be wasting my time analyzing student life because the nature of our work was policy implementation. On one part, she was right. I was somehow part of the school "administration" and it's my duty to implement the given guidelines. My job description did not require me to know what was happening behind students who fail to follow the guidelines.

However, it reminded me of my professor's evaluation on my previously submitted proposed thesis topic. My professor said, given my masteral degree program I should not focus with policies but my research paper should go around studying student experiences.

I am now in a great big dilemma of dual roles. My role at work (which was on policies) was in conflict with my role as a grad student (which was on student life).

I've been reading on student persistence, student enrollment, student retention and student attrition for the past few months. They are actually all just connected to each other. I think there is really a huge need to understand student experiences because guidelines can change. To be learner-centered, you adjust and improve your guidelines on how it can best cater to your learners. How would you, then, know what part of the guidelines need to change, if you are not going to explore on student experiences? 

I didn't expect at first that I would end up studying Student Persistence. But I think I was meant to land on this topic because it fits my role in being in my Univ's Admissions & Scholarships Department. 

Simply because, more than just finding ways to increase student enrollment, I also carry with me that certain responsibility to ensure that my scholars (i.e. students under financial aid) persist and stay to finish college. 

Below are excerpts that I want to take from: Hossler, D. (Spring 2000). The role of financial aid in enrollment management. New Directions For Student Services, 89. 

"Administrators and faculty often assume that the only goal of enrollment management is to increase the number of new students." (Hossler, 2000, p.78)

Enrollment management as defined by Hossler and Bean (1990, p.5):

"an organizational concept and a systematic set of activities designed to enable educational institutions to exert more influence over their student enrollments."

"organized by strategic planning and supported by institutional research, enrollment management activities concern student college choice, transition to college, student attrition and retention, and student outcomes."

"These processes are studied to guide institutional practices in the areas of new student recruitment and financial aid, student support services, curriculum development, and other academic areas that affect enrollments, student persistence, and student outcomes from college."

Key elements of Enrollment Management suggested by Hossler and Bean (1990, p5-6):

(1) "using institutional research to position the campus in the marketplace, examine the correlates to student persistence, and develop appropriate marketing and pricing strategies"

(2) "monitoring student interests and academic program demand"

(3) "matching student demand with curricular offerings that are consistent with institutional mission" 

(4) "paying attention to academic, social, and institutional factors that affect student retention."

Effects of financial aid on the college enrollment decisions (Hossler, 2000, p. 81):

One key finding is that receiving a financial aid award has a significant positive effect on the likelihood that a student will enter the institution that has made the financial aid offer. 

Effects of aid interact in complex ways:

 "Students may turn down a generous financial aid package from a small regional private college if they are admitted to a prestigious Ivy League college that offers no financial aid. Furthermore, research has consistently found that African American students and Latino students are more cost sensitive and more responsive to financial aid offers than majority students of similar socioeconomic background (Hossler, Braxton, and Coopersmith, 1989; Paulsen, 1990)."

"Similarly, it typically requires larger scholarships to influence the enrollment decisions of high-ability students. These students are heavily recruited by many colleges and universities and are often offered many large scholarships. These students are also more likely to be interested in institutions with higher levels of prestige and greater selectivity. For these reasons, many colleges and universities need to offer higher-ability students larger scholarship awards if they wish to influ- ence their enrollment decision on the basis of financial aid offers (Chapman and Jackson, 1987)."

Financial Aid and Student Retention (Hossler, 2000, p.84)

"Enrollment management practitioners, should keep in mind that how financial aid influences student retention is more complex than how it affects student enrollment decisions."

"Analyses of the effects of aid on student matriculation and persistence decisions have to be replicated annually in order for enrollment managers to be confident that campus policies are having the optimal desirable effect on student enrollments." 

"In addition, readers should keep in mind that variables drawn for sociological models of student departure such as the Tinto model (1987) or the Bean model (1980) find that effects of financial aid are smaller than factors such as academic and social integration or academic success. 

Therefore, these factors are likely to be more promising areas for intervention for most enrollment managers seeking to improve student persistence."

I have to end here and include in my paper why I am focusing on exploring academic and social integration of students benefiting from financial aid. As Hossler suggested that financial aid has little effect on student retention. Given that my participants of the study will already be students benefiting from financial aid, the financial aid as a variable is already a controlled variable since all of my participants are benefiting from financial aid (okay, I'm pretty much aware I just repeated what I said). Thus, financial aid is my controlled variable, the academic and social integration is the independent variable, and basic needs satisfaction is the dependent variable. 

In essence, I want to explore if academic and social integration has an effect on basic needs satisfaction of students benefiting from student financial aid. If my hypothesis is correct, therefore, it follows strengthening the importance of schools to attend to the institutional integration of students benefiting from student financial aid.

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