In 1965 Congress established the Social Security Student Benefit Program which provided benefits for children of deceased, disabled or retired workers, who were enrolled in college full—time and were not married, up until the semester they turned age 22. The program grew to be a major financial aid program; at its peak in FY 81 it represented about 20% of all federal outlays on student assistance for higher education. The program was terminated for students newly entering college as of May 1, 1982.
Somewhat surprisingly, in contrast to the debate that accompanies most social programs, debate over the student benefit program focused on its costs and almost totally ignored the possible effects of the program. Virtually nothing is known about how the program influenced potential recipients decisions to attend college, the quality of the education they received, the amount that recipients' families contributed to the student's education, or recipients' in—school and summer employment. This paper seeks to shed insights into some of these effects, using data from the Social Security Administration's 1973 Survey of Student Beneficiaries, the only national survey of participants in the program.