Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

College completion is a complex process involving numerous socioeconomic factors at the individual, institutional, and governmental levels. One important factor is the way in which financial aid is disbursed so that affordability does not serve as a barrier to completion. Awarding scholarships on the basis of merit is one aspect of financial aid structure that has grown in popularity over recent decades, in turn, receiving considerable attention from policy researchers with the intent to assess how they affect an array of postsecondary education outcomes. To date, research of merit-based aid’s effect on college completion has been relatively sparse, yielding contradictory results.

This study aims to add to the body of literature concerning merit-based aid and college completion, as well as inform state policymakers as to whether Kentucky’s merit-based aid program, KEES, contributes to the goal of increasing the level of degree completion. Analysis concluded that KEES increases the likelihood of completing college by a modest percentage across multiple models. It was also found that this increase in likelihood was greater among higher-achieving and higher-income students. Lastly, results indicated that KEES decreased the time to completion. The study concludes with several practical recommendations to be considered based on the results yielded.