Press Releases

New Report Highlights Value Of Early Commitment Financial Aid

TERI and the Pathways to College Network report promotes early commitment financial aid programs.

Twenty-four years ago, Eugene Lang made headlines by promising a class of East Harlem sixth-graders that money would be available to put them through college. Since that time, private foundations and states have followed suit by providing low-income students with commitments of financial aid in middle or early high school, and the results so far are encouraging, according to a new report by TERI (The Education Resources Institute) and the Pathways to College Network.

The report, Early Commitment Financial Aid Programs: Promises, Practices, and Policies, examines how some innovative programs are using the early commitment model to make a difference. Though many of the programs are too young to have long-term outcome data, the early data are promising: 85% of the participants in the Indiana Twenty-first Scholars program go on to college, compared to 65% of non-Scholars. 81% of Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) graduates in 2003 went to college, compared to 56% of all Oklahoma students. The programs appear also to improve student persistence in college, with 90.5% of OHLAP graduates returning for the second year, compared to only 78.4% of all students.

Other notable early commitment initiatives include the Washington State Achievers Program (funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Project GRAD, and the Rhode Island Children’s Crusade for Higher Education.

Too often, low-income students don’t prepare for college in high school because they believe they’ll never be able to afford it. Early commitment financial aid programs address the two largest barriers low-income students face in going to college – affordability and academic preparation – by making a guarantee of financial aid to students while they are in middle and early high school, provided they meet certain requirements, including successful completion of a rigorous college-prep curriculum.

“With the average cost of attending a public 4-year institution climbing to $12,127 a year, finding ways to lower the cost barrier for low-income students is more important than ever,” said Willis Hulings, TERI’s President and CEO. “The strength of the early commitment financial aid model is that it also addresses the question of academic p