Education

Promise Programs Affect College Spending

Community colleges that received revenue from targeted tuition scholarship programs spent less on student services and classroom instruction, according to a study recently published in the journal Educational Policy.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, examined spending at two-year and four-year colleges participating in city or regional promise programs, which offer tuition scholarships to students at a specific college or multiple public institutions within a state. It used data from 2000 to 2014 from the Delta Cost Project, an initiative by the American Institutes for Research that informs policy makers and others about higher education spending, and it was funded by the American Educational Research Association.

Spending on student services fell by up to 15 percent and spending on instruction dropped 3.3 percent at community colleges participating in local promise programs, the study found. However, the community colleges spent more money on services such as parking, dining and health care. There was no significant change in student-centered spending at four-year institutions, according to the study.

“We looked at the alignment between promise program money coming into postsecondary institutions and whether institutions spent it in ways that benefited students, such as instruction, support or wraparound services that help students succeed and thrive,” co-author Jennifer Delaney, a professor of education policy, organization and leadership, said in a news release from UIUC. “In some ways these were aligned; in other ways they were not.”

The study also found differences in spending patterns between community colleges in promise programs that serve only one institution and community colleges in statewide programs. For example, spending on student services fell 9.4 percent at community colleges in single-institution promise programs and decreased 15.4 percent at community colleges in statewide programs, compared to similar colleges not benefiting from these kinds of programs.

“If equity and educational advancement are the intent of these programs, we would hope to find that promise-eligible institutions would increase their spending on student-related support,” the study reads.

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