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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Welfare Recipients' College Attendance and Consequences for Time-Limited Aid


Welfare recipients’ abilities to attend college while receiving aid has been severely curtailed by the TANF program, due in part to concerns about long-term education in a time-limited program. Yet, prior research indicates that college enrollment, and particularly graduation, are strong indicators of positive future outcomes. Findings from the NLSY indicate that during the pre-TANF period, 17 percent of welfare spells had some overlap with college enrollment. Among women who enroll, however, just 36 percent graduate at any point in the 20-year NLSY panel and receipt of financial aid loans is a strong predictor of graduation. Attending college while on aid is associated with up to an additional one and a half years of aid receipt. Graduation may help to ameliorate this, although women who are already enrolled in college when they begin to receive welfare are more likely to graduate than those who start college as welfare recipients.

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