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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, manager,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

03-24-05

Contacts:

Kevin Saunders, educational leadership and policy studies,
(515) 294-1941

Cathy Curtis, College of Education, (515) 294-8175

Kevin Brown, News Service, (515) 294-8986

Iowa State doctoral student earns national research award

AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University doctoral student has received a national higher education research award for a study of factors that predict whether students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds will complete bachelor degrees.

Kevin Saunders, postdoctoral research associate in educational leadership and policy studies in Iowa State's College of Education, received the Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation of the Year award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, Washington, D.C.

"Kevin Saunders prepared a superb study, one that has the potential to influence policy and practice in the crucial area of the persistence of students from modest economic backgrounds," said John Schuh, Distinguished Professor in Education and Saunders' adviser. "He is to be congratulated on receiving this very prestigious honor for his excellent work."

Saunders' work shows that, for college students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, financial grants are key to earning a bachelor's degree.

"Grants are important for low-income students because they equalize access and provide essential financial support," Saunders said. "Providing adequate financial resources also can compensate for low-income students' lack of economic, social and cultural capital."

Saunders studied 822 students classified as moderately to highly economically disadvantaged in a National Center for Education Statistics database that tracked students from 1996 to 2001. He reviewed several retention and achievement factors, such as desire for a college education, personal finances and financial aid opportunities.

Saunders found that the abundance of grants, compared to other forms of financial aid, is the main factor in retention and graduation of low-income students.

Saunders said the results are important because many colleges and universities are moving away from grants -- money that students do not repay -- to student loans or work-study programs.

"Student loans help the middle class, but state and federal policymakers need to look at how they structure aid and how programs influence particular groups of students," Saunders said. "There has been talk about increasing funding for Pell grants. This research suggests that would be a good move."

Saunders earned a doctor of philosophy in education from Iowa State in 2004.

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Quick look

Kevin Saunders, a doctoral student, has received a national higher education research award for a study of factors that predict whether students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds will complete bachelor degrees.

Quote

"Providing adequate financial resources also compensate for low-income students' lack of economic, social and cultural capital."

Kevin Saunders