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Study Overview

The Wisconsin Scholars Longitudinal Study (WSLS) is the first statewide longitudinal study of the impact of private need-based financial aid on college persistence and graduation. The study will follow approximately 6,000 low-income college students receiving need-based aid (e.g. federal Pell Grants) who are enrolled in either the University of Wisconsin System or the Wisconsin Technical College System. In addition to their standard aid package, approximately half of the participants have been randomly selected to receive a private multi-year grant from the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars.

The study addresses four main policy-relevant questions: (a) what are the impacts of private grants on college persistence and graduation?; (b) how do the impacts vary according to the way in which the grant is distributed to students (reduced loans versus increased cash)?; (c) how do the impacts vary by student and college characteristics?; and (d) how and why do the impacts arise? Study findings will have direct implications for both governmental and private grant programs and provide an important basis for addressing current debates about the future of financial aid in the state and nationwide.