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The Role of Merit-Based and Need-Based Financial Aid: Evidence from Trieste University's Grant Programs

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Financial Higher Education; Evaluation of University Grants; Counterfactual Analysis. JEL classification: I22; H52; C21.

The aim of this paper is to investigate whether the Italian University grants are an effective tool to prevent student drop-out and to favor the degree attainment, both for merit and need-based financial aids. The survey units are Italian students enrolled on a degree course in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics from 2002/03 until 2007/08 in the University of Trieste. On the one hand, the Regional Agency for the Right to Education offers some grants every year to eligible students from low-income families (rarely related to merit). On the other hand, Fonda Foundation offers some (only) merit-based grants to the best students enrolled in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics degree courses. In order to estimate the causal effect of receiving a grant, we follow the counterfactual analysis and we match treated and control units using Genetic matching and Coarsened Exact Matching. The results suggest that the income-based financial aids have a positive impact to prevent drop-out at 2nd year, but a non significant effect on graduation time, whereas the merit-based scholarships increase the probability to achieve the degree within the set time frame.

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