UM’s HAIL scholarship program significantly changes students’ academic trajectory, report finds
A University of Michigan scholarship program launched five years ago for high-performing, low-income Michigan students has boosted applications and enrollments while helping to diversify the student body, according to a new study.
Research over the years has shown that low-income students face unique barriers in applying to colleges, not to mention the ability to pay tuition and living expenses. To address these concerns, university leaders worked with a professor from the Ford School of Public Policy. Susan dynarski and associate professor Katherine michelmore in 2015 to design and launch the GREET High Achieving Implolved Leader Scholarship Program.
HAIL offers low-income students a four-year advance guarantee of free tuition and fees, without requiring them to complete the FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The first cohort of 262 students arrived on campus for the fall 2016 term.
Today, as the HAIL program reaches five years of activity with the start of spring 2021, a study report published by the Education policy initiative at Ford School describes how targeted awareness of the HAIL scholarship program has affected the behavior of these students.
“The HAIL intervention significantly changed the decisions of college students, prompting them to apply and enroll in UM at significantly higher rates,” the report concludes. “Specifically, HAIL students were more than twice as likely to apply, be admitted, and enroll at the University of Michigan as students who did not receive the HAIL scholarship offer.”
The study, “Increasing Economic Diversity at a Flagship University: Understanding the Effect of the HAIL Scholarship on Student Decision Making (PDF), ”examined the behaviors of approximately 4,000 high-performing, low-income young people across the state. Some had received targeted information about the HAIL scholarship (“HAIL students”) and some had not (the control group).
The researchers randomly sent targeted information to certain students in order to observe the causal effect of this information on students’ academic choices. The study has followed these students for five years and will continue to track application, acceptance, persistence, and completion rates for each year’s cohort.
Specifically, the study found:
- HAIL students were more than twice as likely to apply to UM as students in the control group. Specifically, 68% of HAIL students applied compared to 26% of students in the control group.
- Among HAIL students, 32% applied and were admitted. Of the control students, 15% applied and were admitted. In other words, HAIL increased the likelihood of applying and being admitted by 17 percentage points.
- 27% of HAIL students enrolled in UM compared to 12% of students in the control group, a treatment effect of 15 percentage points (which translates to roughly 150 better performing, low-income students enrolled each year).
The design of HAIL advanced toward the university’s goal of economically diversifying its student body.
“Cost should never be a barrier for in-state students seeking to study at the University of Michigan,” said UM President Mark Schlissel. “This research has provided us with important data that has helped us design programs that provide greater access to life-changing educational opportunities at a leading public research university. I am proud that so many students from all parts of our state have benefited from it. “
The study suggests that the findings may be relevant to policy makers across the country working to make secondary education more accessible to low-income students.
Among the recommendations:
- Design awareness keeping in mind the specific goals of the institution.
- Use the available data to define the target population.
- Reduce other barriers, such as complex disclosure forms, so that the financial aid process is clear and accessible.
Through a partnership with the UM Enrollment Management Office, the research team was able to track whether students had applied and were accepted to UM, and test intervention adjustments over time. .
“When we designed the HAIL scholarship, we knew there were students who had the opportunity to attend a college like the University of Michigan, but we thought they couldn’t afford it,” said the UM Acting Vice-Rector Paul Robinson. “Our partnership with the research team revealed how many of these students live right here in Michigan… and allowed us to test the effectiveness of this truly innovative program.
The study was led by Dynarski and Michelmore and included researchers Stephanie Owen, CJ Libassi, Elizabeth Burland, and Shwetha Raghuraman. The report was written by Alex Baum, Darian Burns, Jasmina Camo-Biogradlij and Nicole Wagner Lam.