An analysis of the AlaskAdvantage Education Grant Program report reviews the history of the state's largest educational grant program since in inception in AY06 through AY11. An overview of the report's findings were presented in its Executive Sumary, below, and the entire report can be downloaded here.
The AlaskAdvantage Education Grant Program (AEG) was authorized by the legislature to “provide financial assistance to eligible students to enable them to attend, or continue their attendance at, postsecondary educational institutions1.” AEG awards, first distributed in the 2005-06 academic year, are awarded to qualified Alaska postsecondary students who have financial need not met through other grants or scholarships. Eligible full-time students are awarded up to $1,000 per academic year, with half-time students awarded up to $500. Students demonstrating exceptional preparation for academic success or those pursuing training relevant for future employment in a priority occupation can receive awards of twice these amounts.
Since the AEG’s inception, 4,460 students have received at least one of the 5,550 grant awards. However, in no year has there been sufficient funding to award a grant to all eligible Alaskans. In the last three years of the program, as the overall pool of eligible students has expanded, ACPE has observed that higher unmet need thresholds must be met for students to qualify for and actually receive an award. This left 5,054 eligible Alaskans over the past three years, each with an unmet need above the $500 statutory minimum, who were not awarded a grant because of lack of funds.
This analysis seeks to describe the bio/demo characteristics and enrollment behaviors of AEG recipients, and to compare those recipients with otherwise qualified non-recipient applicants. The goal of the analysis is to determine whether the AEG meets program goals related to enabling financially needy students to enroll in postsecondary education.
However, given current program financial constraints, it is unclear if the receipt of an AEG award has an effect on students’ enrollment behavior. Because the pool of eligible recipients is not determined until after students are already in the process of enrolling (if not already enrolled) in postsecondary education, most students find out after-the-fact that they will receive a grant. Therefore, the initial receipt of a grant is unlikely to have been an influence on their decision to enroll.
Eligible students are awarded based on their level of unmet need. AEG program management changes in 2008-09 led to the use of an eligibility model to establish an unmet need “threshold,” above which students would receive the grant. An unmet need of at least $8,000 was required to receive an award in AY 2008-09, increasing to $14,300 in 2010-11. In the past three years, the average award has covered only about 8% of recipients’ unmet need. Relative to the amount of unmet need, the ability of an AEG award to influence students’ behavior might be questioned.
Finally, while the average recipient receives one and one-quarter AEG awards, only three percent of degree-seeking recipients are first-year freshmen. Most recipients have already decided to pursue a postsecondary education, though the grant may achieve its goal of enabling students to continue their education.