- Derek Rury
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Scholars disagree about the effect out-of-state university students have on potential in-state students. Despite paying a premium to attend state universities, researchers argue that out-of-state students may come at a cost to in-state students by negatively affecting academic quality or by crowding out in-state students. To study this relationship, we examine the effect of a 2016 policy at a highly ranked state flagship university that removed the limit on how many out-of-state students it could enroll. We find the policy caused an increase in out-of-state enrollment by around 29 percent and increased tuition revenue collected by the university by 47 percent. We argue that this revenue was used to fund increases in financial aid disbursed at the university, particularly to students from low-income households, indicating that out-of-state students cross-subsidize lower income students. We also fail to find evidence that this increase in out-of-state students had any effect on several measures of academic quality.
We administer a survey to study students' preferences for relative performance feedback in an introductory economics class. To do so, we elicit students' willingness to pay for/avoid learning their rank on a midterm exam. Our results show that 10% of students are willing to pay to avoid learning their rank. We also find that female students are willing to pay $1 more than male students. We also confirm that beliefs about academic performance do not predict preferences for information. After randomizing access to information about rank, students report needing more study hours to achieve their desired grade and being less likely in the top half of the ability distribution in the class. These effects are driven by stronger effects from people who overestimated their midterm rank compared to those who underestimated their performance. We do not find an overall effect of learning about rank performance on final course grade. We also confirm that students' preferences for feedback do not interfere with their belief updating.
A student's class rank has important short and long-term effects on important educational outcomes. Despite our growing understanding of these rank effects, we still do not know how early in a child's academic career they begin. To address this, I use data from the Tennessee STAR project, which randomly assigned over 6,323 kindergarteners to classroom environments, to study the impact of kindergarten class rank on a host of short and long-run outcomes. I find a strong, causal relationship between one's kindergarten classroom rank and subsequent test scores, high school achievement and performance on college entrance exams. I also find that having a higher rank in kindergarten causes an increase in study effort, value of school and initiative in the classroom. I also leverage the design of project STAR to test various mechanisms and address several outstanding issues in the rank literature, including the role of tracking, parental effort and teacher-level characteristics in driving the effects of class rank.
To study beliefs about ability and STEM major choice, I conduct a field experiment where I provide students with information that they are above average in their top fields of study. I find that STEM students are more likely to switch out of their major and that non-STEM students fail to switch into STEM at the same rates as other fields. I also find that learning you are above average in your top field of study increases STEM major choice by almost a third, as STEM students appear more like to persist and non-STEM students increase their switching into STEM fields.