Making College Happen through Financial Aid Incentive Programs

October 31, 2014

A well-designed financial aid incentive program couples a pre-college pipeline program targeting traditionally under-represented populations with an appropriate combination of scholarships, grants, and tuition discounts that covers 100% of tuition for students who meet admissions standards.

Guide to creating programs offering Financial Aid Incentives

When considering a Financial Aid Incentive Program, consider the following:

  • What will the focus be? Potential focus for your incentive program may include:
    • The local neighborhood/host city
    • Underserved regions in the state
    • Underserved populations
  • Who will your partners be?
    • Local public schools
    • All local schools, public and private
    • Community organizations serving youth
  • What will the incentive look like based on your enrollment management goals?
  • What existing resources on your campus can you pull together to invest in the program?
  • How will you leverage existing resources to support underrepresented populations once they are admitted to your campus?

Exemplary Programs

Neighborhood Academic Initiative – USC: A rigorous, seven-year pre-college enrichment program designed to prepare low-income neighborhood students for admission to a college or university. Those who complete the program, meet USC’s competitive admission requirements, and choose to attend USC are rewarded with a full 4.5-year financial package, minus loans. The program was established in 1989 and enrolled its first scholars in the 1991-92 academic year. Pulling together private as well as corporate resources, the NAI encompasses three major components: the USC Pre-College Enrichment Academy, the Family Development Institute and the Retention Program.

Rutgers Future Scholars Program – Rutgers University: Each year, the Rutgers Future Scholars program introduces 200 first-generation, low-income and academically promising middle school students from school districts in the four Rutgers home communities of New Brunswick, Piscataway, Newark, and Camden to the promise and opportunities of a college education. The program has multiple-year components, each building on the foundation of the previous year. Beginning in summer preceding their 8th grade year, student participants become part of a unique pre-college culture of university programming, events, support, and mentoring that will continue through their high school years, and eventually college. For students who successfully complete the pre-college part of the program, Rutgers will provide full tuition funding through scholarships and federal grants to students admissible to Rutgers University.

Young Scholars Program – Ohio State University: The Ohio State University Office of Diversity and Inclusion Young Scholars Program improves pre-college preparation, retention, and degree completion among high-ability academically gifted first-generation students with financial need from nine of the largest urban school districts in Ohio: Akron Public, Canton City, Cincinnati Public, Cleveland Metropolitan, Columbus City, Dayton Public, Lorain City, Toledo Public, and Youngstown City. The Young Scholars Program has supported more than 3,000 pre-collegiate (grades 8th through 12th) and collegiate (college undergraduates) scholars, providing them with comprehensive academic, career, and personal development programs in partnership with school district administrators and staff; Ohio State faculty, staff, students, and alumni; and community and corporate partners.

Links to Additional Resources

Rutgers Future Scholars research on college access programs:

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