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Can Information and Advising Affect Postsecondary Participation and Attainment for Non-Traditional Students? Evidence from a Large-Scale Experiment with the U.S. Army

Non-traditional students disproportionately enroll in institutions with weaker graduation and earnings outcomes. One hypothesis is that these students would have made different choices had they been provided with better information or supports during the decision-making process. We conducted a large-scale, multi-arm field experiment with the U.S. Army to investigate whether personalized information and the offer of advising assistance affect postsecondary choices and attainment among non-traditional adult populations. We provided U.S. Army service members transitioning out of the military with a package of research-based information and prompts, including quality and cost information on a personalized set of matched colleges, messages targeted at addressing veteran-specific concerns or needs, and reminders about key stages in the college and financial aid application process. For a randomly selected subset of the experimental sample, we also provided service members with opportunities to connect with a college advisor. We find no overall impact of the intervention on whether service members enroll in college, on the quality of their college enrollment, or on their persistence in college. We find suggestive evidence of a modest increase in degree completion within the period of observation, with these impacts mainly driven by increased attainment at for-profit institutions. Our results suggest that influencing non-traditional populations’ educational decisions and outcomes will require substantially more intensive programs and significant resources.

Keywords
non-traditional students, military, nudge, behavioral economics, RCT, college advising, college success
Education level
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
10.26300/ccdz-q022

EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Barr, Andrew C., Kelli A. Bird, Benjamin L. Castleman, and William L. Skimmyhorn. (). Can Information and Advising Affect Postsecondary Participation and Attainment for Non-Traditional Students? Evidence from a Large-Scale Experiment with the U.S. Army. (EdWorkingPaper: 22-529). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://doi.org/10.26300/ccdz-q022

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