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Measuring the Effectiveness of Student Aid (MESA)

Canada Millenium Scholarship Foundation, Quebec, Canada (2005-2009)


The MESA Project was a four-year, $4 million research project ran by EPI with the collaboration of the Queen’s University School of Policy Studies and Acumen Research. The project aimed to measure the impact and cost effectiveness of bursaries for low-income students on access to and persistence in postsecondary education. EPI took three steps in completing this evaluation: (a) examined, longitudinally, the student aid files of recipients of the Access Bursaries and those who narrowly missed the criteria, and by developing and administering a survey to this same group of students and then subsequently linking the survey and the administrative file, (b) fully utilized existing databases such as Statistics Canada's Post-Secondary Education and Participation Survey (PEPS), Youth in Transition Survey (YITS), the Longitudinal Administrative Database (LAD), and the Enhanced Student Information System (ESIS), to examine the effects of student assistance on access to and persistence in postsecondary education), and (c) conducted random assignment experiments involving extra financial resources for low-income students.  This was the first major research project in Canada to link student aid administrative data, survey data, and databases such ESIS to investigate the long-term effects of grants. The findings of this project resulted in three annual reports, 16 research papers, 10 forthcoming papers, and a book.