Home > Uncategorized > Raise.me Pays for Grades, Extra-Curriculars that Make a Difference in College Success

Raise.me Pays for Grades, Extra-Curriculars that Make a Difference in College Success

February 21, 2016

An article by Natasha Singer in today’s NYTimes describes Raise.me, a program that offers students micro-scholarships to nearly 100 participating post-secondary schools. The idea behind these micro-scholarships is described in the headline:

Got an A in Algebra? That’s Worth $120

The background on Raise.me is offered in this paragraph:

Raise.me, a three-year-old start-up in San Francisco, aims to make the admissions criteria clearer and the costs a bit more feasible, particularly for first-generation collegegoers. High school students may sign up on the free site to accrue incremental scholarships from about 100 participating institutions, including Oberlin, Temple University and soon, the University of Iowa.

The article describes how these incremental micro-scholarships extend beyond the classroom. Penn State University, which offers Raise.me micro scholarships to students attending selected high schools in the state, rewards selective extra-curricular activities as well:

Penn State has made its Raise.me program available to students at five high schools in Philadelphia, as well as six rural Pennsylvania high schools. Those students may earn scholarships of up to $4,000 a year for four years. Among other awards, the university offers them $120 for each A grade in a core course, $400 for each advanced placement course, $100 for each year of perfect attendance, $100 for a leadership role in a sport or extracurricular activity and $5 for each hour of community service, up to $500.

The notion of offering money for good grades and desirable behavior outside of the classroom seems crass, but it is a common practice in many middle class and affluent families and does provide a clear and direct answer to a student to the question “what am I ever going to get out of this course?” The program works for colleges as well since they are often seeking first generation students who attend high schools serving children raised in poverty and find that those students often enter without the strong transcripts that other students accrue. There is a potential downside to this program, however, one that Middleburg College Dean Suzanne Gurland flags:

The potential risk is that introducing monetary rewards could curb students’ intrinsic motivation to succeed in school, or their innate enjoyment of activities like reading, in favor of striving for scholarship dollars.

“Hinging dollar amounts on individual microachievements probably creates a bunch of kids running around thinking, ‘How can I get the next 250 bucks?’ instead of focusing on what’s really important — which is learning,” said Suzanne Gurland, the dean of curriculum at Middlebury College in Vermont, who has studied processes that help children thrive in school.

Rather than using microscholarships to micromanage students’ educational pathways, Professor Gurland said, colleges could simply pledge lump sums to promising ninth graders if they agreed to work diligently during high school on whichever subjects or projects interested them most.

“If a kid is interested and hard-working,” Professor Gurland said, “they will take that calculus course anyway.”

While I wish that a students primary motive was learning for its own sake, our culture and our political environment at this point sees education solely as a means of earning more money and I know that many parents actively discourage their children from pursuing more education because they do not believe it is within their reach. Moreover, once a student gets onto a campus like Penn State and sees the opportunities that exist for learning, it is conceivable that the love of learning will replace the love of earning. Anything that gets a disadvantaged student out of an environment that discourages advancement will benefit them and benefit our society as a whole.

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  1. November 28, 2016 at 12:11 pm
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