SocioAcademic Status:

Achievement Levels and Values Differences Between Student Loan Recipients and Paid-Tuition Students at Warren Wilson College

Megan Star Best

Warren Wilson College



            The goal of this paper was to examine the relationship between socioeconomic status and academic achievement in the college setting.  A secondary goal of this research was to determine if there were differences in values and perceptions related to money and spending patterns between students from different socioeconomic status.  Students from Warren Wilson College filled out surveys, and then were selected for interviews based on their year, sex, and the amount of student loans they received.  The results indicated that student loan recipients do perform more poorly than their paid-tuition counterparts, and also have different studying habits and values related to coming to, and staying in college


     This goal of this project is to examine the relationship between students who receive financial aid and the grades they receive in college. The students directly control some factors that contribute to their grades in college: study habits, attentiveness, motivation, etc.  Other factors may contribute to grades, but the student may not have control over these factors.  Quality of high school education, family background, or even teacher favoritism can affect how a student does in college, or at least in particular classes, but the student has little or no input into factors like these.

     In this study, the grades, attitudes, and values of students who receive financial aid -specifically student loans- will be compared to students whose parents are paying for college.  A second purpose of this study is to examine any values that relate to academic achievement, but which also could be associated with different socioeconomic levels.  These values can reflect the importance of studying, studying method, or even motivation to perform well in college students based on their socioeconomic background.

The purpose of comparing these different factors among these student populations is to look for patterns that might be determinants of student grades or overall success in college, and attitudes and values that are helpful or detrimental to academic achievement.


Background and Literature Review

     Although the research on financial aid as a determinant of academic achievement is scanty, variables that are related to financial aid have been examined, as well as other variables that may affect academic achievement.  This information is useful because it can be used to control independent variables that are related to GPA, and also to compare the impact of these variables to each other.  The independent variables to be discussed are socioeconomic status, academic performance (which will be measured using attendance), hours studied, and overall student satisfaction.

     Socioeconomic Status

The research done on socioeconomic status is most related to this study.  As this study is focused on need-based financial aid as a determinant of academic achievement and the socioeconomic background of a student plays a large factor in determining their need for financial aid, the association between these two factors unmistakable.  Several studies done on the relationship between socioeconomic status and academic achievement measure socioeconomic status in terms of at least one parent’s income, education or degree of training received, and level of success attained within an occupation (Crane, 1969; Reitzes & Mutran, 1980; Stanfiel, 1973).  While the factors used to determine socioeconomic status remain fairly similar in these different studies -focusing largely on parental income and educational attainment- the results from these studies were varied.

Crane (1969) found that socioeconomic status affects not only academic achievement, but also post-college career choice and ability to find careers in prestigious institutions.  She argues that low achievement among college students can be attributed more to learned “attitudes and values which inhibit them from making the most of opportunities which are available to them.”  This argument does not take into account the impact of students’ socioeconomic status in any physical manifestation, like working during college.  Instead, it is focused on class-based values that detrimentally affect lower-class students.

     Similarly, Reitzes and Mutran (1980) also show a correlation between socioeconomic status and academic achievement.  Like Crane, their argument focuses on how learned values of a particular class can affect academic achievement.  This study shows not only how lower-class students are affected negatively by these class-based values, and how students from upper classes are affected positively by a different set of class-based values.

Both of these studies focus on psychological manifestations while ignoring the physical realities of a lower-class college student.  These studies also further perpetuate a stigma that is linked to lower class individuals, specifically that lower class students do more poorly in school because they are not as intelligent.

     A study done by Stanfiel (1973) shows an opposing trend to the aforementioned studies.  The outcome of this study was that lower class and upper class students are similar in academic achievement levels, but middle-class students perform more poorly than their counterparts.  Like the other studies, this one attributes the difference in academic achievement to the difference in learned class values, but goes on to mention the physical stresses on a lower class college student in analyzing the attrition rates of these different classes.

     Finally, a study done in Hong Kong comparing critical thinking among students from different economic backgrounds found a large difference between the critical thinking and motivation levels of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds (Chau-Klu Cheung, Rudowicz, Graeme, Xiao Dong Yue, Kwan, 2001).  This study showed that students from upper class and bourgeois backgrounds “excelled in critical thinking as compared with students of lower classes (Chau-Klu Cheung et al., 2001).”  Although this article discusses academic achievement, it does not speculate as to the reasons for the disparity between the achievement levels of students from different backgrounds in terms of learned class values.

     Another important factor of this study is that, unlike many of the other studies relating achievement to socioeconomic status, this particular study does make an effort to address the physical factors related to socioeconomic status.  Although it shows lower motivation and critical thinking levels in lower class students, this study shows that “students who had fewer resources, engaged more often in part-time work, and spend less time on studying…”(Chau-Klu Cheung et al., 2001).  The physical stresses on lower status students can potentially be greater than that of higher status students, which can have an affect on achievement. 

     Although the data from previous studies seems fairly inconsistent, it was largely based on similar measures of socioeconomic status, which may indicate a problem with using income/parents job status as a measure of socioeconomic status.  In my study, while those factors were looked at, the main determinant of socioeconomic status was how the students saw themselves.  The students had to state their socioeconomic status, but also give reasons for why they chose a particular category.  I feel that, by asking the students to name their status and the observable characteristics of that perceived status, the validity of their responses is increased 

     Academic Performance

     At least one study suggests that academic performance as a determinant may have a stronger correlation to academic achievement than socioeconomic status (Schuman, Walsh, Olson, Etheridge, 1985).  The measures of academic performance used in this study were based only on class attendance.  Due to concerns of validity, hours spent studying was not used as a measure.  The impact of classes attended on GPA is overwhelmingly positive, and was even shown to be a slightly better determinant that SAT scores. 

     While the study did not look at the relationship between academic performance and socioeconomic status, it does integrate learned behavior into the argument.  This position states that students who attend class are more likely to do better simply because the professors grade on attendance and lecture-based materials, and that “this kind of practical wisdom about what to study is highly important and is both correlated with class attendance and uncorrelated with quantity of study (Schuman, et al., 1985).”


Hours Studied

     At first glace, one would think that hours studied would have a great impact upon academic achievement.  In the same study done by Schuman, et al. (1985), hours spent studying proved to be unrelated to academic achievement except in the highest margins of both the dependant and independent variables.  As mentioned above, this may have to do with the fact that professors tend not to grade on materials from homework, and students adjust their study patterns and class attendance to what the professor grades on. 

Although there is no correlation between academic achievement and hours studied, there could be a correlation between student motivation and hours studied.  Since motivation can be seen as learned, possibly class-based value, hours studied will be included in this proposal.

The concept of “knowing what to learn” is related to the idea of cultural capitalism.  This concept essentially argues that:

Schools and other institutions legitimize and reinforce the values, behaviors, and practices associated with middle-class whites and, as a result, reproduce society by sorting classes into their predetermined position (Bourdieu, quoted in Valadez, 1993).

In this system, students who come from lower backgrounds will never perform as well because they aren’t equipped the necessary social tools needed to succeed in a middle-class setting. This is an important concept to this project because it emphasizes the importance of values, which is part of the focus of this project.

     Overall Student Satisfaction

Overall student satisfaction is a difficult variable to measure because it contains not only the academic life, but also the social life of the college student.  For the purposes of this study, student satisfaction is defined as a students’ contentment with their role as a student, their relationships with their professors, and their social life.

 One study to address the topic of student satisfaction looks at how this variable affects academic achievement and vice versa (Bean & Bradley, 1986).  The outcome of this study was that satisfaction significantly affects achievement, but it is not a reciprocal relationship.  Satisfaction plays a large part in the success of a college student, and more so for women than men. Of the factors used to determine satisfaction, social life was the biggest determinant of student satisfaction (Bean & Bradley, 1986).

 The relationship between satisfaction and achievement is important for the current study because, as seen above, factors that determine academic achievement incorporate values and behaviors related to studying and motivation.  These values and behaviors are learned, and ones’ social group is one way through which values are shared and incorporated. 


Research Problem & Hypothesis

     Through this research I looked at several different issues that affect college students, and tried to determine which, if any, of these issues was most related to student grades.  The focus of this project was on students who receive student loans, but also on how the money-related values are perceived and reflected in the college setting. 

Based on the focus of this study, the questions addressed were related to student spending patterns, economic status, college performance, selection of majors, and attitudes towards college overall.  These factors were compared in students who do or do not receive financial aid in order to determine if students who receive financial aid do better in school as a result of the debt they are incurring, or if they do worse. 

As seen above, research on financial aid as a determinant of academic achievement is lacking, although a great deal has been done on academic achievement overall.  The general focus of these studies was on the values that are expressed through status groups and social relationships based on class.  While focusing on the psychological determinants, the material side has largely been neglected in relating socioeconomic status to academic achievement.  By this I mean that the actual conditions of a lower class individual in the collegiate atmosphere have not been examined. 

In opposition to past research in this area (Crane; Reitzes & Mutran), I hypothesized that students who receive financial aid obtain higher grades, and have an overall better college performance than students who do not receive financial aid. 

Because students who receive financial aid were aware of the debt they were incurring, they would work harder in college in order to get the most for their money, so to speak.  This argument took into account not only attitudes towards college, but also how learned behaviors can both positively and negatively affect the college student based on how the student interprets what is important.

Although this hypothesis is contrary to past research, I decided to focus on it largely for personal reasons.  As a student loan recipient myself, I was curious to see if there was a relationship (positive or negative) between achievement and socioeconomic status and also how perceptions of college and values vary in different status groups.


Significance of Research

     This research has significance to both the academic, and the sociological communities.  It can be used to identify students who may not do well in college, and also to design programs to help motivate these students.  This research can be used to help students gain a better understanding of the value of the money that they, or their parents, are spending on a college education. The outcome of programs like these could affect the turnover rate for colleges and also the success of students in college.


Research Design

     The participants in this study will be college students from Warren Wilson College.  Warren Wilson College is a private liberal arts college, with a population of roughly 738 students (taken from Warren Wilson College “facebook” from Fall semester, 2002).  The first part of this project involved surveying the student body, and then determining a sample group to interview.  The surveys were given out in person, and were filled out immediately.  In order to get as large a survey group as possible and to ensure that the surveys were filled out rapidly, I resorted to passing out candy in exchange for the completed survey.  The surveys were done in front of the main cafeteria and the vegan cafeteria in order to reach a broader spectrum of students.

After all the surveys were completed, the responses were then coded, and from that, the interviewees were chosen.

     The students selected to participate in the interviews were chosen based on their survey results. These students were also selected based on their desire to participate further in this project: they indicated this on their survey form.  Although this can skew the results, I tried to balance it by choosing students based on their year in school, amount of loans received, and their sex.

     I conducted the interviews with one student at a time, and they lasted about 15 minutes to 45 minutes maximum.  The interviews were not recorded, but detailed notes were taken on all the interviews.  The group of students that I chose for the interviews were chosen based on their sex, year in school, how much/little financial aid they receive, and their willingness to participate.  Ideally, I tried to get at least one female and male with financial aid, and one female and male without financial aid for each year. 

The interviews started after all the surveys were completed, and the data was coded.  Before starting the interview, I had each student fill out the informed consent form, a copy of which is located in appendix B.  The interviews were fairly structured, but not entirely rigid.  I wanted the students to discuss what is important to them, and I may not always have asked the right questions.  By keeping the interview fairly informal, I hoped to get more complete responses form the individuals on the factors that they feel relate most to college performance.  It was important to keep some structure though; in order to get the specific information that I was looking for and to keep the interviewees from getting too far off track.  A copy of the general interview questions can be found in appendix C.

     After the interviews, the materials from them and the surveys were analyzed and incorporated into one another to provide not only an in-depth study of a few students, but also a more general study of the larger population.  I also compared the data from the surveys and interviews to look for patterns that may not have been apparent in the initial surveys.  Through this manner, I hope to give a more complete representation of this community than either of these tools could accomplish alone.


Survey Results

     The surveys were done on two different days, about a week apart. The first batch was done in front of the vegan cafeteria, with the regular cafeteria following the next week.  As noted above, I used candy to encourage people to take my survey.  The second week I ran into slight difficulties because someone else was also doing a survey and handing out candy, so I had competition. 

A total of 81 surveys were collected, which is 10.97% of the total student population of 738.  The statistics from the surveys fit generally fit the normal distributions of Warren Wilson College.  The sex ratio was 62% females and 38% males: Warren Wilson is 64% females and 36% males (from the Warren Wilson College “facebook” from Fall semester, 2002).  The students were also fairly evenly distributed across the four years, with a slightly higher representation of seniors (29.6%) and a slightly lower representation of juniors (17.2%). 

Financial Aid/Student Loans

The distribution of students who receive financial aid was also fairly concentrated: of the 81 students surveyed, 43.2% of the population receives no student loans whatsoever.  From that group, 74.3% of the students have their tuition entirely paid for by a family member, one student (2.8%) is paying entirely by themselves, one student (2.8%) is paying entirely with grants/scholarships, one student (2.8%) is paying with a combination of self and grants/scholarships, one student (2.8%) is paying with a combination of a family member and themselves, and 11.4% are paying with a combination of grants/scholarships and a family member.  Based on these statistics, it is clear that students who are not receiving student loans are paying tuition largely with assistance from their family.

The second group of student loan recipients (or non-recipients as was the case above) I looked at was those students who paid 50% or more of their tuition with student loans.  This group accounted for 13.6% of the total survey sample.  There were also a high number of students that received less than 50% student loans (30.1%), and a smaller group (12.3%) that was unsure how much their student loans paid for. 

I decided to focus on those students without student loans and those with over 50% tuition paid by student loans.  My reason for separating the groups this way was to get the most contrast in the responses and look at the differences in the results of these two groups.  By isolating the highest and lowest of those who receive tuition, it was easier to look for distinct differences in responses by these two groups.

Of the students who pay 50% or more of their tuition with student loans, 36.3% of the students are paying entirely with student loans, 36.3% of the students are paying with a combination of grants/scholarships and student loans, one student (9%) was paying with a combination of loans and money from a family member, and one student (9%) was paying with help from a family member, grants/scholarships, and student loans. One notable difference in those who pay more than 50% of their tuition with student loans and those who do not is that none of the students receiving student loans pay any of their tuition themselves (until they have to start paying off their loans).

Socioeconomic Status

As I expected, the surveys were not particularly helpful in determining students’ socioeconomic status.  Of the group that received no student loans, 2.8% categorized themselves as “lower-middle class,” 62.8% as “middle class,” 22.8% as “upper-middle class,” and 8.5% as “upper class.”  At a school that costs nearly $20,000 a year, it seems surprising that so many students would consider themselves middle class, but as noted earlier, they may not be comfortable admitting their affluence.  Another compounding factor is that the student may not have grown up with the family member that is providing their college tuition.  As was encountered in the interviews, some students may have grown up with one parent in a lower income household and have had college paid for by the other parent who has a higher income.  In several cases, grandparents or other family members not in the students immediate household also paid tuition.

The group of students who pay more than 50% of their tuition produced results that identified them largely as coming from lower class backgrounds than the paid-tuition students.  Of these students, 18.1% categorized themselves as “lower class,” 36.4% as “lower-middle class,” 36.4% as “middle class,” and one student (9%) who paid 75% of their tuition with student loans categorized themselves as “upper-middle class.”   More than half of the people from this group categorize themselves in the two lowest levels of the SES scale, whereas only a third of the students who don’t receive loans categorized themselves in the upper two categories.  Perhaps it is more acceptable in this atmosphere to identify oneself as poor than affluent.

Academic Achievement

Academically, most of the students interviewed do extremely well in school or possibly aren’t being strained academically.  The survey questions related to the best and worst grades that the students had received showed that the majority of the students don’t get very bad grades.  The best grade received was obviously an “A,” and was received by 80.2% of the students surveyed, 14.8% of the students earned a “B” as their highest grade, no students received a “C,” and one student (1.2%) earned a “D” as his/her highest grade. 

The worst grades showed a similar pattern, with students largely earning fairly decent grades and very few poor grades.  20.9% of the surveyed population received an “A” as their lowest grade, 43.2% received a “B,” 23.4% received a “C,” five students received a “D” (6.1%), and one student (1.2%) received an “F.”  I was surprised by this distribution, and had expected a greater concentration in the lower grades.  Based on some of my own experiences and the responses I got during the interviews, it could be that some programs at Warren Wilson College aren’t especially academically rigorous.

Contrary to what I had expected, when comparing the grades of those who pay more than 50% of tuition with loans those who receive no loans, the grades of the students who don’t receive loans were higher.  Only one student who receives over 50% of student loans got an “A” as their lowest grade compared to five students who receive no student loans whatsoever.

Another large difference related to grades was the attributions given in respect to good or bad grades.  In both groups of students, good grades were largely attributed to internal factors like working and studying hard or simply “doing the work.”  When giving reasons for bad grades, students who don’t receive loans generally attributed them to not doing the work or putting in less effort.  In contrast, students who pay more than 50% of their tuition with student loans largely attributed bad grades to not being interested.  While not being interested most likely involves putting in less effort and not working as hard, it also shows a behavioral pattern particular to the lower-income students in this survey: when they aren’t interested they don’t work as hard.

Hours Studied 

When comparing this data to that on the hours students spend studying, another interesting trend appears: those students who receive student loans spend an average of 18.7 hours studying a week whereas the students who are not receiving student loans only study for an average of 10.4 hours a week.  This is significant because it shows that students who are paying their tuition with student loans do more studying, but produce lower grades than those students who are not receiving loans. These results seem to support the theory that students from lower income backgrounds do not always have the cultural capital necessary to succeed in college (Valadez, 1993), or possibly that their study habits aren’t as effective.  Another possibility is that students from different SES have different motivational factors, which affect their success rates; this will be discussed further in the interview section.

Reasons for Coming to/Staying in College

Finally, both groups of students were compared on their reasons for coming to college, and again, there was a notable difference in the results.  The group that didn’t receive loans generally gave reasons relating to enjoyment, interest in, or desire for education.  An equal number of people from this group said they came to college for some kind of character building or development of some skill. 

While these were the most common responses, many people listed several reasons, and they were generally fairly broad.  The results of the students who receive loans, on the other hand, were very concentrated under one reason: to get a degree or to be able to get a good career.  Again, the inconsistency between the two groups could reflect different values learned in their status group.  Perhaps those students coming from higher classes are secure in their status, and can simply learn for they sake of learning or enjoyment.  On the other hand, people from lower incomes may see college as a way to escape lower class status through securing a good job, or simply by having a college degree. 

Based on these surveys, it seems that, while students who pay at least 50% of their tuition with student loans are aware of their investment, spend more time studying, and are largely career oriented, they perform more poorly than those students who don’t receive loans.  These findings are important because they can be used to develop programs to help acclimate students to the college atmosphere, and to identify areas where more or less emphasis is needed (i.e. attending class over studying time).  As shown in the survey, a lack of interest in the subject plays a role in student loan students doing poorly, but the interviews seems to indicate that other factors like motivation and social life are larger factors in determining the academic achievement of these students.


Interview Results

     I had initially planned to interview sixteen students who responded to my survey (four from each class).  Several of the students never responded to my various phone calls and emails, so my interview group was lowered to twelve, leaving me with 5 paid-tuition students and 7 student loan recipients.  The students who did not respond were a freshman female and male that did not receive any loans, a junior female who received 50% in student loans, and a junior male who received no student loans.  I feel that; combined with the data from the survey, this smaller sample will not be any less representative.

     Although not originally planned, the interview has become slightly secondary to the survey, with several exceptions.  Most of the data gained from the interviews gives strength and detail to the data gained in the surveys, and helps to elaborate on subjects that weren’t fully addressed in the survey: specifically the effects of social life on motivation, and spending patterns.


     The students who pay more than 50% of their tuition with loans basically answered in two different ways to this question.  These responses fall either under promotion of a balance between academics and social life, or to academics taking precedent over social life.  One student promoted a balance, but also stated that it’s hard to achieve and that when he’s “getting drunk too often, it’s hard to get homework done.” 

Surprisingly, the students who were more dedicated to academics were the males (4 out of 6), and those promoting a balance between the two were females (4 out of 6).  This could be due to differences between males and females in the importance of a strong social network.  As one female interviewee put it: “There’s social pressure to party instead of work, but a lack of friends causes depression and lack of motivation.”  Females may be more motivated by spending time away from academics, and then coming back to the work later.

     The general theme in both the group of students with student loans and the group of students without was that social life could affect achievement both positively and negatively.  Interviewees from both groups talked about how having studious friends helped keep the interviewees motivated, but too much “partying” interfered with school, or as one female simply put it: “Drinking affects achievement.” 

     The other factors that affected motivation seemed to follow a general pattern in the two groups of interviewees, but it seems contrary to responses given in the surveys.  The students without student loans gave academic reasons for motivation such as: “I do better if I’m interested in the subject” or “I want to have a good GPA to get into Grad. School.”  This is a turn around from the survey responses in which the majority of the students from this group gave “character building” or “love of learning” reasons for being in college.

     Conversely, the students who have student loans answered just the opposite.  They largely gave non-academic reasons for staying motivated or their top motivators, such as: “Grades and a degree substantiate, but knowledge is the most important (motivator),” “Interactions with various kinds of people,” or “Opening my mind to new ideas, friendship, connections, the Love.”  All of these motivators are relatively outside the realm of academia even though this is the group who mainly listed academic or professional reasons for being in college in the first place.  Perhaps these students, while coming to college for one reason, are turning to other reasons that fit most with into their view of the world and what they have been taught is important.  It could also be that upper income students have more parental pressure on them to succeed, so their focus changes from the time they arrive to the time they graduate.

     Spending Patterns

     Spending patterns was another area where there was a good deal of variation between and within the two groups, but the largest difference in spending patterns was in age.  On the whole, the older students spent more money than the younger students interviewed.  Beyond that, it was hard to determine major differences between students with and without student loans.  This was compounded by that fact that several of the students were day students, and so included rent/food in their weekly expenses.  Also, several of the students who receive loans had spent all of their money before the interview, while others simply had no money to spend ever. 

The students who receive student loans, however, did stand out from their counterparts in what types of items they bought.  If they had money, they spent it mainly on items like concerts, beer, cigarettes, or items that weren’t considered a necessity.  The students who don’t receive student loans spent less money on beer, and also described activities like going out to eat and seeing movies, and most of them generally had some kind of savings account.  This difference could be an indication that people from lower incomes may not have learned how to budget wisely, or haven’t ever been in a situation where they would be able to budget.  Again, this could be the result of status values that reflect their class and affect their spending patterns or even the value of money itself.

 Academic Achievement

A final difference between these two groups of students was in their GPA.  The average of all of the paid-tuition students interviewed was 3.55, whereas the average of the student loan recipients was 3.29.  Although this difference is not very large, I feel it is significant, especially with the survey data on the worst grades.



     This study investigated the relationship between students who receive student loans, the grades they receive, and their perceptions of money within the college atmosphere.  By researching this topic, one can look for trends that could be seen as determinants of a student’s college potential, and also for spending patterns among students from differing socioeconomic backgrounds.  This research could be beneficial to colleges and students alike, and also help to develop better educational programs to address the issues regarding financial aid, and spending patterns within the college community.

     The results from these surveys and interviews are somewhat imbalanced: some of the factors appear to have been confounded by unknown variables, and some of the survey data appears to contradict the information gained from the interviews.  The most obvious patterns to come out of the research relate to different reasons for coming to college, differences in spending patterns, different sources of motivation, and differences in grades received between those who do and those who do not receive student loans. 

     It seems that all of these categories are very attached to the culture in which they were produced.  In real life, people from different socioeconomic statuses have very different spending patterns, motivators for success, and reasons for furthering knowledge.  Based on that, it should come as no surprise that these values are reflected in the college atmosphere as well.  Students who are raised in lower income families have different expectations of them, and that is reflected in their choices.  At the same time, those students from lower incomes may also be less prepared because of their background.  They may want to succeed, but not necessarily have the right tools or focus to bring that to fruition.

     In a college setting geared towards students from higher income families, the lower income students will do worse because they are not as well prepared to be in that setting.  It would appear that culture and cultural capital play a large role in determining academic achievement for college students; those who have received more cultural capital related to specific forms of academic motivation, peer relations, and what is considered important would do better in the setting that is aligned with those forms.  The students who have different motivators and social ties will not perform as well regardless of how hard they try, because the issue is how they try in the first place.




















Appendix A

Hello, my name is Megan Best and I am doing my senior research project on the relationship between grades and financial aid.  Please think about each question carefully.  If any of the questions are unclear, please indicate that as well.  I really appreciate your effort; it will help to make my senior research project a successful one!! Thanks for your time.


1. How old are you?


2. Male or Female


3. What year are you? 

      1. Freshman       2.  Sophomore       3.  Junior       4.  Senior     5.  Other


4. How would you describe your academic experience at Warren Wilson College?

      1. Very poor          2. Poor       3. Fair        4. Good       5. Very Good


5. What was your best grade last semester?


6. What factors led to you receiving this grade?



7. What was your worst grade last semester?


8. What factors led to you receiving this grade?



9. What are your parent’s educational backgrounds?



10. How are you paying for college?



11. What percentage (if any) are you paying with student loans?



12. Why are you in college, what is important to you about college and college life?



13. Would you describe yourself as coming from a lower, middle, or upper class background?



14. On average, how many hours a week do you spend studying?


**If you would be willing to do a short interview on the subject of grade point averages, please put your name, extension, and box number.  Thanks for your time.





Appendix B

Consent for Research Study

The Affect of Financial Aid Upon the Grade Point Average of College Students


I                              voluntarily agree to participate in the research study conducted by Megan Best, who is a student at Warren Wilson College.  This research project is being done for the Research Craft class, for which Siti Kusujiarti is the professor.


I understand that this study is about the ways in which financial aid- specifically student loans- affect the study habits and academic beliefs of a college student. 


I understand that I will be asked to respond to questions about my financial aid status, attitudes towards college, study habits, and grade point average.  I have been informed that these interviews will last no longer than 1 hour.  If there are questions I do not want to answer, I understand that I do not have to answer them.  I also understand that I will not receive compensation for my participation in this study.


I understand that the information from this interview will be reported without directly mentioning my identity and it will be kept confidential except as may be required by federal, state, or local law.


I understand that this research does not have any negative impact on me and this research also does not have any direct positive impact on me.  If I think that this research will result in negative impact on me I can refuse or discontinue my participation in this research.  I understand that I may refuse or discontinue participation in this research project at any time without any negative consequences.


All of my questions about participating in the project have been answered.


I understand that if I need further information about this research and my participation in it, I can contact Ms. Best at CPO 7342, Warren Wilson College, PO Box 9000, Asheville, NC, 28815 or call her at (828) 771-5915.  Or I can also contact the class instructor, Siti Kusujiarti at (828) 771-3703. 


I have read and understand this consent form.



Participant’s Signature                                   Date


I have explained in detail the research procedures in which the participant has agreed to participate, and given him/her a copy of this informed consent.



Researcher’s Signature                                  Date


Appendix C

Interview Questions

The information I hope to find out during this interview is related to the interviewee’s success in college, what they value in college life, and what is their economic background.  I will be interviewing a random sample of the students who respond to the survey and indicate that they will be willing to participate. 

The interviews will last no longer than 1 hour, more likely 30 minutes, and will be done in a neutral setting like a commons room or library.  I will approach the interviewees on a casual level, and will explain that I am doing a research project on factors that affect GPA, specifically differences between students who receive financial aid and those who do not.  With permission of the respondents, I will tape record the interview, which I feel allows for more free-flowing conversation than keeping notes. 

The problems I foresee involve getting interviewees to define their economic background, I have a feeling most everyone will say they are middle class.  I have tried to avoid this problem by asking a variety of questions that relate to economic status before asking what they feel their economic status is.


Interview Questions

College life

  1. How do you pay for college?
  2. Have you always paid this way?
  3. Why did you choose to come to this college?
  4. What is your major and why did you choose this major?
  5. Do you plan to change your major? If so, to what, and why?
  6. What is your current GPA, or what kinds of grades do you generally receive?
  7. How many classes do you miss in one subject in a term?
  8. What factors, external and internal, do you feel contribute to receiving poor grades? 
  9. What factors affect your motivation to do well in school?  Do you care about grades?
  10. If you receive financial aid, how do you feel that affects your motivation?
  11. What factors lead to your satisfaction/dissatisfaction?
  12. How do you think your social life affects your academic achievement?



Economic Status

  1. How much money do you spend in a week on average?  On what types of items?
  2. Do you have any kind of job, on or off-campus?
  3. Do you receive any financial support from one or both of your parents? 
  4. How much of tuition is paid for by your parents (specify if one provides more than other)?
  5. What are your parents’ professions?  And what is their rank within their profession?
  6. How many cars does your immediate family own?
  7. How would you describe the condition of each of these vehicles (poor, fair, good)?
  8. What do you think your immediate family’s economic status is, and what factors do you think determine that?

What kinds of advice do your parents give you about school in relation to studying habits and motivation to do well?  Do you receive anything special for doing well? Do your parents look at your grades?














Bean, John P.; Bradley, Russell K. (1986): Untangling the Satisfaction-Performance Relationship for College Students.  Journal of Higher Education, v. 57, i. 4, pp. 393-412.


Chau-Klu Cheung; Rudowicz, Elisabeth; Graeme, Lang; Xiao Dong Yue; Kwan, Anna S.F. (2001): Critical Thinking Among University Students: Does the Family Background Matter?  College Student Journal, v. 35, i. 4, pp. 577-598.


Crane, Diane (1969): Social Class Origin and Academic Success: The Influence of Two Stratification Systems on Academic Careers.  Sociology of Education, v. 42, i. 1, pp. 1-17.


Reitzes, Donald C.; Mutran, Elizabeth (1980): Significant Others and Self Conceptions: Factors Influencing Educational Expectations and Academic Performance.  Sociology of Education, v. 53, i.1, pp. 21-32.


Shuman, Howard; Walsh, Edward; Olson, Camille; Etheridge, Barbara (1985):  Effort and Reward: The Assumption that College Grades are Affected by Quantity of Study.  Social Forces, v. 63, i.4, pp.  945-966.


Stanfiel, James D. (1973): Socioeconomic Status as Related to Aptitude, Attrition, and Achievement of College Students.  Sociology of Education, v. 46, i. 4, pp. 480-488.

Valadez, James.  Cultural Capital and Its Impact on the Aspirations of Nontraditional Community College Students.  Community College Review, v.21, i. 3, pp. 30-44.