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


  • *Direct correspondence to Rebecca London, Center for Justice, Tolerance, and Community, Economics Faculty Services, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064 〈rlondon@ucsc.edu〉. Upon request, the author will share all data coding information with those wishing to replicate the study. The author thanks participants and discussants at the 2003 APPAM Annual Research Conference in Washington, DC for comments and suggestions. She is grateful to the Spencer Foundation and the University of California All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity (UC ACCORD) for providing funding for this project.


Objective. I examine the association between total time on welfare and recipients' college attendance and graduation over a 20-year period.

Methods. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I model the determinants of college enrollment and graduation among welfare recipients, and the association between the total number of months a recipient receives aid and her college attendance and graduation. Models examine separately the effects associated with longer stays on aid while recipients attend school as well as reduced recidivism associated with college attendance and graduation.

Results. Findings indicate that attending college is associated with more months on aid, but graduating largely offsets this increase through reductions in return to aid.

Conclusions. Policymakers' concerns that including postsecondary education as a TANF activity would undermine the short-term focus of the program are not fully supported. A greater concern is the low rate of graduation among welfare recipients, who reap the most benefits from college attendance and sacrifice the fewest months on aid.