Financial aid, debt management, and socioeconomic outcomes: Post-college effects of merit-based aid

Judith Scott-Clayton, Basit Zafar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Prior research has demonstrated that financial aid can influence both college enrollments and completions, but less is known about its post-college consequences. This study is the first to link college and financial aid information to credit bureau data later in life, enabling us to examine the impacts of grant aid on homeownership, neighborhood characteristics, and credit outcomes. We use a regression-discontinuity (RD) strategy to identify causal effects of the WV PROMISE scholarship, a broad-based state merit aid program, up to 10 years after college-entry. The RD is imperfect because our sample is limited to college students and the scholarship program increased enrollment, but there is little evidence of selection on observables at the threshold. We find that scholarship recipients near the test score cutoff for eligibility are more likely to earn a graduate degree, are more likely to own a home and live in higher-income neighborhoods. Effects on annual earnings and credit outcomes are similarly positive, but imprecise. These positive effects are primarily due to substantial reductions in time to degree, rather than to reduced student debt upon graduation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-82
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Public Economics
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Education policy
  • Educational outcomes
  • Financial aid
  • Higher education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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