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Jed Richardson

Drew M. Anderson, David B. Monaghan, Jed Richardson.

This study found that the MATC Promise increased college attainment by encouraging Milwaukee high school students to access state and federal aid, and to consider matriculating to their local two-year college. The MATC Promise exemplifies the last-dollar model of college aid. If seniors at Milwaukee area public high schools complete academic milestones, apply for financial aid, qualify based on low family income, and matriculate to Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), then the Promise covers any remaining tuition charges. The message promoting free college was the program’s main element, since the funding support for eligible students came primarily from existing state and federal aid. We studied outcomes for the first four graduating classes after the Promise was launched, compared to the trend in Milwaukee for the previous six graduating classes. The rate of matriculation to MATC increased from 10 percent to 15 percent. There was no such increase in matriculation to other technical college districts around the state, suggesting that the increase was caused by the Promise. The increase in enrollment was larger among lower-income students and those in the urban Milwaukee Public Schools. Those students were more likely to apply for financial aid earlier, regardless of whether they ultimately qualified for the Promise, and their rate of matriculation to any college increased from 45 percent to 49 percent. There was no indication that attracting additional students to college led to lower graduation rates, though we were limited to examining credentials earned in two years or less.

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