College pays students for getting a 'C' in math

Students also have the to win free textbooks.

HCC funds part of this experiment with additional funding coming from a George Soros organization.

Hillsborough Community College will pay up to $1,800 in cash to students who make a C or higher in three semesters of math classes.

A Florida community college is trying to inspire students to finish their degree by doling out up to $1,800 in cash to students who make a C or higher in three semesters of math courses.

The program, called Mathematic Access Scholarship Program (MAPS), has run at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) for the past three years and is spearheaded by Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC).

MDRC is an education and social policy research organization that performs large-scale experiments and demonstrations by using randomized controlled trials to measure the effects of social and educational policy initiatives. It is best known for evaluating welfare reform in the 1990s.

"MDRC secured the funding for this project and together we established the criteria,” Special Project Coordinator for HCC, Judy Alicea told Campus Reform.

"This project allowed to be innovative and assist students by focusing on Math [sic] while providing an incentive to help them get through sequenced courses from developmental Math through their first college level Math course,” Alicea said in an email.

According to HCC, the cash incentive program was mostly funded by a non-profit called the Helios Education Foundation, a research organization that focuses on education and social policy. MDRC and the Open Society Foundation, founded by progressive businessman George Soros, also chipped in $120,000 each. HCC did confirm its financial backing of the program, but it is unclear just how much public funding went towards the cash incentive program.

“[Funding from HCC] is difficult to pin down to a dollar amount,” Alicea said. “HCC has covered much of the cost of running the program outside of what the initial budget specified. With this initiative, the majority of the funding went to students in the form of scholarships, leaving HCC to carry much of the cost of running MAPS.”

Participants in the program could earn $600 per semester, for three semesters. Students were also required to attend tutoring sessions and utilize academic support services. Students who earned a “B” or better received a math textbook or book voucher for the next math course in the sequence.

"[T]hese math classes were a major barrier to student success,” Craig R. Johnson, Vice President of HCC's Academic Affairs, told Campus Reform in an email. “We hoped the incentives would inspire behaviors that would lead to increased student success.”

According to State Impact NPR, it is unclear to researchers whether students who were paid bonuses were more likely to finish their degree or not. However, students who are paid bonuses are not more likely to return to college than the control group students.

The cash incentives reportedly do encourage students to take on a heavier course load; those in their first semester of college and participating in the program took on an additional 1.5 credits in comparison to those in their first semester who did not participate in the program.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @laurenacooley