Friday, September 2, 2011

Gail Baksh-Jarrett completes dissertation in the School of Educational Leadership and Change

The Irony Of Open Access: An Examination Of A New York State Financial Aid Policy And Its Effect On Students --Gail Baksh-Jarrett

Gail is the Senior Director of Enrollment and Student Financial Services at LaGuardia Community College- City University of New York.  She can be contacted by email at

Open access institutions have achieved the goal of providing higher education to all who seek it. To compete in a global economy, these higher educational institutions must do more than open the door; they must ensure that admitted students succeed. This study examined effects of New York State’s financial aid policy that requires foreign-credentialed students to pass Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) tests in mathematics, reading, and writing to receive financial aid.

This study, conducted at LaGuardia Community College, focused on the impact of the ATB tests on foreign-credentialed students’ retention before and after implementation of the regulation. All first-time, full-time students with foreign credentials, U.S high school diplomas, and GEDs for the years 2006 to 2008 were compared in regard to their first semester placement in college remedial courses. The foreign-credentialed students’ pass rates in the college remedial courses were compared to their pass rates on the ATB tests for 2 years after implementation of the policy. The fall-to-fall return rate for all three groups of students, with and without state financial aid, was examined to determine their persistence. Records of approximately 6,400 students were analyzed. A sample of 105 students who had just taken the ATB tests responded to a survey about the test, and their future educational plans.

The findings indicate:

o More foreign-credentialed students needed remediation in reading and writing than U.S. credentialed students.

o More U. S. credentialed students needed greater remediation in mathematics.

o Foreign-credentialed students with and without aid persisted at a higher rate than U.S. credentialed students.

o The return rate for foreign-credentialed students after ATB implementation as compared to before, decreased slightly for those without aid and increased slightly for those with aid.

o Equal numbers of test-takers stated they would retake the ATB test(s) and they would seek alternative financing or continue without state aid.

The findings suggest that the New York State ATB criterion is redundant. The standard used to demonstrate ability-to-benefit should not be where the high school credentials were received, but rather when all students achieve certain academic skills to succeed in higher education.

Keywords: ability-to-benefit, foreign academic credentials, financial aid, remediation, retention

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