Understanding the Effects of a Cost-of-Living Grant Pilot on Community College Student Success

September 2022–August 2026

In this project, researchers will use a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate whether a cost-of-living grant for low-income community college students increases college retention and completion. The pilot program will provide community college students who have demonstrated financial need with an additional cost-of-living stipend of $3,500 per semester for two years, up to $14,000 total.

The evidence that large grants can increase college persistence and completion is somewhat mixed. Thus, additional rigorous evidence on the effect of large grants is warranted, especially for community college students. Further, advocates have called for the maximum Pell Grant award to be doubled. This project will rigorously answer the policy-relevant question of whether doubling Pell can meaningfully improve degree completion rates for community college students.

Veronica Minaya from CCRC and Dr. Sade Bonilla from the University of Pennsylvania will recruit a sample of approximately 600 students from two community colleges that serve a majority of students of color. Students will be randomly assigned to either a treatment group that receives the cost-of-living stipend or a control group that will not. The study will follow the students for three years after random assignment to gauge the effect on degree completion. The study will also determine the program’s impact on continued college enrollment, credit accumulation, and transfer to a four-year institution.

This project is funded by Arnold Ventures.

Project Lead

Veronica Minaya