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Casandra E. Harper

Bradley R. Curs, Casandra E. Harper, Sangmin Park.

This quasi-experimental study examined the effectiveness of a one-time emergency financial relief program among Pell Grant eligible undergraduate students in Spring 2015 pursuing their first bachelor’s degree across academic and financial outcomes. The academic outcomes included retention to the next semester, degree completion, attempted credit hours, and grade point average. The financial outcome captured whether students received a stop registration hold due to an unpaid financial balance in the semester after receiving the emergency relief. The results reveal that financial relief applied to low-income students’ accounts can improve their retention and graduation rates. The financial relief was most effective among first-generation college students, resulting in a complete elimination of the retention gap for first-generation students. The emergency relief did not improve GPA or substantially change the number of credits earned. A concerning finding was that students receiving this emergency support were more likely to receive a financial hold in a subsequent semester and that effect was stronger among students of color (Black/African American, Hispanic/Latine, Asian, Multiracial, American Indian/Alaska Native), males, and first-generation college students.

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