Study: Scholarship Program Increased College Enrollment & Graduation Rates While Lowering Loan Debt

SAN ANTONIO — A little financial assistance goes a long way toward helping youth realize their college dreams. That’s according to a new study commissioned by the San Antonio Area Foundation through The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Urban Education Institute examining San Antonio’s most wide-ranging collection of community scholarships offered to college-bound students. 

The San Antonio Area Foundation’s Scholarship Program has more than 100 funds available for graduating high school students and current college students. High school students receiving scholarships experienced improved college enrollment rates, more timely degree completion rates and less school debt, according to the new UTSA analysis. 

An average scholarship of about $7,000 increased on-time (within four years) college graduation by nearly 20 percent. A student’s financial aid debt was decreased by $4,508 on average, the study found.

“The Area Foundation program is an example of a community-based solution to increasing economic mobility through education,” said Dr. Mike Villarreal, Director of the Urban Education Institute and an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. “We see our work with the Area Foundation as an ongoing partnership to strengthen this local effort. Our collaboration is part of a bold vision of student success that is transforming our entire community.” 

Sierra Araiza, former scholarship recipient

Marjie French couldn’t agree more. As CEO of the San Antonio Area Foundation, French noted that the study confirmed the good work that the Foundation’s Development and Donor Services Department has been doing on the scholarships front.

“It’s gratifying to see scholarly research confirm what we’ve thought for a long time,” she said. “The scholarships program we provide is, in fact, having a real and lasting effect in the youth of our community. We’re having a significant impact in providing them more and better opportunities for higher education and career advancement.”

Since its first scholarship award in 1969, the Area Foundation has awarded more than $37 million to college-going students. The UEI study, Helping Youth Realize Their College Dreams: An Impact Study of the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Scholarship Program, compared scholarship awardees to their high school peers with similar demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, as well as prior educational experiences.   

Key Findings

  • Students receiving an Area Foundation scholarship were more likely to enroll in a four-year college over a two-year college. Receiving an award increased the probability of enrolling in a four-year college over two-year college by about 12 percent.
  • An Area Foundation scholarship increased the likelihood of students earning undergraduate degrees within four years. Awardees graduated from four-year colleges on time at higher rates than their peers. Receiving a scholarship increased the probability by about 20 percent of students earning a degree in four years.
  • Receiving a scholarship did not change the probability of earning an associate degree within two or three years of college entry.
  • Four-year college students with an Area Foundation scholarship experienced decreased college loan debt by about $4,500 on average after four years of college

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About the San Antonio Area Foundation: 

The San Antonio Area Foundation has served as the city’s community-giving headquarters for nearly 60 years, growing to become one of the top 20 foundations in the nation based on asset size. The Area Foundation helps donors achieve their charitable goals, managing more than 500 charitable funds topping $1 billion in assets. Beyond serving hundreds of nonprofit organizations each year through its grantmaking, the agency operates a strong student scholarship program – to the tune of over $37 million since 1969 through more than 100 scholarship funds. Learn more at www.saafdn.org/students/scholarships.