GSEHD Releases Six Papers on Keys to Student Success

Professor Sandy Baum led the research commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation analyzing student responses to educational systems.

sandy baum
GSEHD Research Professor of Education Policy Sandy Baum
September 25, 2013

Research released by the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development examines the effect of student behaviors and decisions on educational success.

An interdisciplinary cohort of researchers led by GSEHD Research Professor of Education Policy Sandy Baum, Executive Director of California Competes  Robert Shireman and Principal Research Consultant of HigherEd Insight Patricia Steele, authored the project, producing six papers that analyze student success in navigating the financial aid system and institutional processes in the classroom and college.

“These papers are designed to strengthen efforts to increase the success of all students, particularly those from low- and moderate-income backgrounds, in attaining postsecondary education,” Dr. Baum said. “They provide insights into some of the problems with current policies and suggest promising directions for improvement.”

The project, commissioned by GSEHD and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, began one year ago with a goal of furthering understanding of how the current financial aid system and institutional structure could better serve students.

The studies offer insight into the incompatibility between student decision-making processes and policies in the educational system.

“There is widespread concern about the difficulty many students have in selecting institutions and courses of study, obtaining the financial aid they need to help them pay for college, and successfully completing degrees and certificates,” Dr. Baum said.

Experts such as Saul Schwartz, a professor at Carleton University; Charles Kurose, a research associate at the Spencer Foundation; and Nicole Stephens, an associate professor of management and organizations at Kellogg School of Management contributed writing to the project focusing on student aid, student success, cognitive psychology and behavioral economics.

“We wanted to bring experts in behavioral economics and cognitive psychology, who understand human behavior but don't usually think about the questions of college access and success, into our conversation,” Dr. Baum said.

The studies breakdown the student decision-making process and how these decisions can determine educational outcomes. They also examine how student aspirations and access to educational success can be supported or hindered by the structure of the student-aid system.

The research shows that despite adequate funding, these systems should be reevaluated to comply with how students process and use information about the educational system.

 “We need to better understand the hurdles students face in taking advantage of educational opportunities and make the changes necessary to better position them for success,” Dr. Baum said. “Our research sheds light on ways we can improve the higher education environment to increase student success.”