In December, 1,000 students in El Salvador were assigned scholarships for the 2010 school year. The scholarships will provide money for students who attend technical schools for books, uniforms, room and board, and transportation. These scholarships are designed to keep teenagers in school when they cant afford it on their own. This program is especially important for students in the Northern Zone of El Salvador since the average level of schooling is only 4.3 years, which is more than 1.5 years lower than the rest of the country. Plus, a technical education is estimated to increase students employability and raise their incomes by more than 30 percent.
FOMILENIO (the entity managing El Salvador’s $460.9 million MCC compact) started publicizing the scholarships and recruiting students months ago. Almost 1,900 applications were received. Of those, 1,500 applicants met the minimum requirements, but FOMILENIO could not provide all of them with scholarships. Therefore, it was decided that the scholarship recipients would be selected randomly at a public event. By selecting students to receive scholarships randomly, every student had the same chance of being selected through this fair process. By conducting the selection publicly and providing an internet link for remote viewers, FOMILENIO’s process was both open and transparent. The final list of selected scholarship recipients was handed out to school directors and published on FOMILENIOs web site.
In addition to the benefits of fairness and transparency, a random selection of scholarship recipients allowed for a rigorous evaluation of the programs impact. The students who were not selected will be tracked and compared with the students who were selected. Because the students were selected at random, the two groups should be the same on average now and any change in their future income can likely be attributed to the scholarship. This type of evaluation methodology is considered a best practice and one that MCC is using in a variety of programs and countries around the world to assess the impact made to promote sustainable poverty reduction and economic growth.