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Kansas State University
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College of Education researcher finds link between grant aid, degree attainment

Monday, Sept. 30, 2019


MANHATTAN — Does grant aid keep students in college and help them graduate? According to a Kansas State University College of Education researcher, the answer is yes.

Tuan Nguyen, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, published "The Effects of Grant Aid on Student Persistence and Degree Attainment: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Causal Evidence" Sept. 23 in the Review of Educational Research, the top journal in education research. Co-authors were Jenna Kramer, associate policy researcher at Rand Corp., and Brent Evans, assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University.

Nguyen and his colleagues examined more than 25,000 scholarly records to determine the extent to which grant aid — financial aid that does not need to be repaid — effects student postsecondary outcomes.

Poring through the data and synthesizing results, the researchers determined that grant aid, in addition to inducing students to enroll in college, helps students to persist from year to year and to ultimately graduate. Moreover, they find grant aid programs with need-based components have consistent positive effects on persistence and graduation, while merit-only aid does not affect persistence or on-time graduation.

Furthermore, grant aid programs that provide other forms of support, such as peer mentoring, faculty advising or academic supports, have larger effects than those without. The authors' findings support continued or increased investments in grant aid, particularly need-based aid — including merit aid with need-based components — and aid programs that provide additional supports.

"We are very pleased this research has been published as it is a crucial study that synthesizes the best available evidence from the literature about the effects of grant aid on student persistence and degree attainment," Nguyen said.

Todd Goodson, professor and chair of the department of curriculum and instruction, said reliable data like Nguyen's is critical for decision-making.

"Dr. Nguyen is quickly establishing himself as a leading researcher in this area," Goodson said. "His work with the analysis of large data sets can help drive policy in important ways both nationwide and here at home."

No grant funding supported this study.

Nguyen earned dual bachelor's degrees in mathematics and physics and minors in psychology and history of science from the University of Oklahoma. He earned a Master of the Arts in teaching at Washington University in St. Louis and a doctorate from Vanderbilt University in education leadership and policy studies with a doctoral minor in quantitative methods.

Nguyen's research interests include teacher leadership and school improvement, teacher policy and teacher labor market, and financial aid and postsecondary persistence.


Tuan Nguyen




College of Education


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Tuan Nguyen

Tuan Nguyen, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the Kansas State College of Education, is co-author of a study that finds financial aid grants help students persist and earn their degrees.

Written by

Patrice Scott