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Broken Promises: Resolving Financial Aid Dilemmas that Further Marginalize Students in Need

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2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Race/Ethnicity Track - Technical Session IV

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Race/Ethnicity

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Tanya D. Ennis University of Colorado, Boulder

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Tanya D. Ennis is the current Engineering GoldShirt Program Director at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. She received her M.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Southern California and her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her career in the telecommunications industry included positions in software and systems engineering and technical project management. Tanya taught mathematics at the Denver School of Science and Technology, the highest performing high school in Denver Public Schools. She is currently a Ph.D. student in the School of Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder studying Learning Science and Human Development.

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Jenna Greenwood University of Colorado, Boulder

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Many engineering colleges around the country have made significant effort to recruit and enroll underrepresented minority (URM) engineering students in an effort to broaden participation in engineering (Malcom-Piqueux & Malcom, 2013). Access to financial resources is essential for many of these students in their pursuit of higher education since they are disproportionately represented in lower income brackets and are more likely to be Pell eligible (Fenske et al., 2000). In an attempt to recruit these students, a large, western public university developed a campus-wide “University Promise” program to assist Pell Grant eligible students with college tuition and fees.

The University Promise program committed to provide enough grants to Pell Grant eligible students to cover the student portion of tuition and fees, as well as a work-study award to help pay for some of the other educational expenses for these students. Housing, dining and other costs for attendance were not covered in the program, a condition stated to students. However, after students committed to attend the university for the fall semester, they faced many barriers to access the grant including, complicated financial aid requirements, inconsistent language, and inadequate communication which confused students about their eligibility. Additional information was required from students during the end of their senior year in high school when they were focused on final exams, AP exams and graduation. If students did not comply with submitting additional information by the early summer deadline, the “University Promise” award was revoked.

These issues were uncovered during an engineering student summer bridge program attended by a subset of eligible students who were participating in an engineering access program. During the summer bridge program, incoming students participated in course scheduling and advising sessions to discuss their financial status and resolve minor issues with financial aid. For those who were awarded the University Promise and had it revoked, minor financial aid issues became a huge roadblock; their likelihood of attending the university in the fall looked bleak since they had no other financial resources to pay tuition. After being told that they would not receive the University Promise, some students realized that fall enrollment would not be an option. This paper will reveal biases with the financial aid process which further marginalize these students; it will discuss the strategies used to restore the University Promise when possible and negotiate additional financial resources.

This paper seeks to illuminate the financial aid issues, which are largely external to the engineering recruitment process but have major implications. The paper will also detail student case studies and real scenarios that students experienced that could have jeopardized their enrollment in the engineering college. Future strategies and interventions are being developed to mitigate these experiences and remove financial barriers. The case studies discussed in this paper are for students who attended the summer bridge program that included a “financial check” component in the schedule. These students were provided navigational support in restoring the University Promise. However, further investigation is warranted for those students who did not have this support.

Malcom-Piqueux, L. and Malcom, Shirley M. (2013, March 15). Engineering Diversity: Fixing the Educational System to Promote Equity. The Bridge, 43(1), 24-34.

Fenske, R., Porter, J. and DuBrock, C. Education, H. (2000). Tracking Financial Aid and Persistence of Women, Minority, and Needy Students in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. Research in Higher Education, 41(1), 67–94.

Ennis, T. D., & Greenwood, J. (2018, April), Broken Promises: Resolving Financial Aid Dilemmas that Further Marginalize Students in Need Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--29520

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