Early First-Dollar Categorical Need-Based Aid: A New Model for Making College Affordable?

July 2022 - Current

Project Summary

The purpose of this project is to evaluate how the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP), a large first-dollar aid program in Michigan, impacts postsecondary outcomes for low-income high school students. This project is the first rigorous evaluation of TIP, which will yield broader lessons for college affordability policy in other states and at the federal level.

The research team is using a mixed-methods approach. In the first stage of the project, the researcher team has utilized administrative data to perform a descriptive analysis of program eligibility and take-up. To estimate TIP program impacts, the research team will conduct a regression discontinuity (RD) analysis, comparing students just barely eligible for TIP to those barely ineligible using administrative education data for all students in Michigan over the past decade. To complement the quantitative analyses and explore mechanisms and barriers to TIP access and enrollment, the research team is also conducting an in-depth qualitative study which includes interviews with students, parents, counselors, and TIP program staff. This will also provide inputs for a cost and cost-effectiveness study.

Research Objectives:

  1. Who is eligible for TIP, who takes up TIP, and how does take-up of TIP vary by subgroup, location and timing of eligibility?
  2. What is the impact of the TIP program on college enrollment, college choice, and degree attainment?
  3. Are program impacts moderated by timing of eligibility, application difficulty, geography, and extent of counselor/school involvement?
  4. What are the mechanisms through which TIP alters students’ outcomes?
  5. What remaining barriers hinder college enrollment and success?


We are partnered with several state-based and educational access organizations to conduct this study. Our partners include:


This study is funded by the United States Department of Education and Institute of Education Sciences grant number R305A220070 to the University of Michigan. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.