A Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Student Support Services Program
Pacchetti, Ed M.
Rice, Jennifer K.
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ABSTRACT Title of Document: A BENEFIT-COST ANALYSIS OF THE STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES PROGRAM Ed M. Pacchetti, Doctor of Philosophy, 2009 Dissertation Directed by: Jennifer K. Rice, Ph.D. This study extends previous research on the Student Support Services program, a federal program that works to ensure college retention and graduation for low-income and first generation students, by examining the benefits and the costs of higher-impact SSS projects. Higher-impact SSS projects are defined as such because the graduation rates of their participants exceed the national graduation rate for other low-income and first generation students who have not participated in the SSS program. Applying a methodology used in other benefit-cost analyses of education programs, this study explores how the benefits over 40 years following participation in higher-impact SSS projects exceed the costs of these projects. This study focuses on benefits and costs to society. The benefit measures utilized in this study include higher income, lower health care costs and lower costs of crime. The cost measures include grant award costs, institutional project contributions, Pell Grant costs and the costs of Stafford Loan subsidies. The findings show that at three discount rates of 3%, 7% and 10%, the benefits of higher-impact SSS projects consistently exceed their costs. In addition, in most estimates of the future value of benefits generated by higher-impact SSS projects, the benefits generated by these projects are significant enough to provide for the grant award costs of all SSS projects at 4-year colleges and universities in project year 2005-2006, the year that is the focus of this study. This study's findings have implications for future research. Because the benefits of higher-impact SSS projects are significant, future research should focus on identifying the components of these projects responsible for success and incorporating these components into less successful projects in an attempt to increase the college graduation rates of all SSS projects. However, this study emphasizes that benefit-cost analysis should be one of many measures used to evaluate SSS projects and determine program success.