Search EdWorkingPapers

Access and admissions

Displaying 1 - 10 of 134

Jeonghyeok Kim.

Each year, over a thousand public schools in the US close due to declining enrollments and chronic low performance, displacing hundreds of thousands of students. Using Texas administrative data and empirical strategies that use within-student across-time and within-school across-cohort variation, I explore the impact of school closures on students' educational and labor market outcomes. The findings indicate that experiencing school closures results in disruptions in both test scores and behavior. While the drop in test scores is recovered within three years, behavioral issues persist. This study further finds decreases in post-secondary education attainment, employment, and earnings at ages 25–27. These impacts are particularly pronounced among students in secondary education, Hispanic students, and those from originally low-performing schools and economically disadvantaged families.

More →


Brian Holzman, Horace Duffy.

As states incorporate measures of college readiness into their accountability systems, school and district leaders need effective strategies to identify and support students at risk of not enrolling in college. Although there is an abundant literature on early warning indicators for high school dropout, fewer studies focus on indicators for college enrollment, especially those that are simple to calculate and easy for practitioners to use. This study explores three potential indicators of college readiness that educational leaders may consider using as part of an early warning system for college enrollment. Using district administrative data, our analysis shows that an indicator based on attendance, grades, and advanced course-taking is slightly more effective at predicting college enrollment than indicators based on course failures or standardized test scores. However, the performance of these indicators varies across different student demographic and socioeconomic subgroups, highlighting the limitations of these measures and pointing to areas where they may need to be supplemented with contextual information. Through event history analysis, we demonstrate that the ninth grade is a particularly challenging year for students, especially those who are male, Black, Hispanic, or economically disadvantaged. These results suggest that educational leaders ought to consider identifying and targeting students at risk of not attending college with additional resources and support during the freshman year of high school.

More →


Juan Matta, Alexis Orellana.

Do residential neighbors affect each others' schooling choices? We exploit oversubscription lotteries in Chile's centralized school admission system to identify the effect of close neighbors on application and enrollment decisions. A student is 5-7% more likely to rank a high school as their first preference and to attend that school if their closest neighbor attended it the prior year. These effects are stronger among boys and applicants with lower parents' education and prior academic achievement, measured by previous scores in national standardized tests. Lower-achieving applicants are more likely to follow neighbors when their closest neighbor's test scores are higher. A neighbor enrolling in a school with one s.d. higher school effectiveness, peer composition, or school climate induces increases of 0.02-0.04 s.d. in the applicant's attended school. Our findings suggest that targeted policies aimed at increasing information to disadvantaged families have the potential to alleviate these frictions and generate significant multiplier effects.

More →


Di Xu, Kelli A. Bird, Michael Cooper, Benjamin L. Castleman.

Many public workforce training programs lead to industry-recognized, third-party awarded credentials, but little research has been conducted on the economic benefits of these credentials in the labor market. This paper provides quasi-experimental evidence on the labor market returns to industry-recognized credentials connected to community college workforce noncredit training programs. Based on novel data that includes approximately 24,000 working-age adults enrolled in noncredit workforce training programs at the Virginia Community College System, we employ a comparative individual-level fixed effects model to estimate earnings premia net of fixed attributes and earnings time-trends. Our results indicate that earning an industry-recognized credential, on average, increases quarterly earnings by approximately $1,000 and the probability of being employed by 2.4 percentage points, although there is substantial heterogeneity in economic return across different program fields. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the earnings gains associated with the industry credential obtained through the noncredit workforce training would exceed program costs in just over half a year on average.

More →


Carly D. Robinson, Katharine Meyer, Chasity Bailey-Fakhoury, Amirpasha Zandieh, Susanna Loeb.

College students make job decisions without complete information. As a result, they may rely on misleading heuristics (“interesting jobs pay badly”) and pursue options misaligned with their goals. We test whether highlighting job characteristics changes decision making. We find increasing the salience of a job’s monetary benefits increases the likelihood college students apply by 196%. In contrast, emphasizing prosocial, career, or social benefits has no effect, despite students identifying these benefits as primary motivators for applying. The study highlights the detrimental incongruencies in students’ decision making alongside a simple strategy for recruiting college students to jobs that offer enriching experiences.

More →


Brian Heseung Kim, Julie J. Park, Pearl Lo, Dominique J. Baker, Nancy Wong, Stephanie Breen, Huong Truong, Jia Zheng, Kelly Ochs Rosinger, OiYan Poon.

Letters of recommendation from school counselors are required to apply to many selective colleges and universities. Still, relatively little is known about how this non-standardized component may affect equity in admissions. We use cutting-edge natural language processing techniques to algorithmically analyze a national dataset of over 600,000 student applications and counselor recommendation letters submitted via the Common App platform. We examine how the length and topical content of letters (e.g., sentences about Personal Qualities, Athletics, Intellectual Promise, etc.) relate to student self-identified race/ethnicity, sex, and proxies for socioeconomic status. Paired with regression analyses, we explore whether demographic differences in letter characteristics persist when accounting for additional student, school, and counselor characteristics, as well as among letters written by the same counselor and among students with comparably competitive standardized test scores. We ultimately find large and noteworthy naïve differences in letter length and content across nearly all demographic groups, many in alignment with known inequities (e.g., many more sentences about Athletics among White and higher-SES students, longer letters and more sentences on Personal Qualities for private school students). However, these differences vary drastically based on the exact controls and comparison groups included – demonstrating that the ultimate implications of these letter differences for equity hinges on exactly how and when letters are used in admissions processes (e.g., are letters evaluated at face value across all students, or are they mostly compared to other letters from the same high school or counselor?). Findings do not point to a clear recommendation whether institutions should keep or discard letter requirements, but reflect the importance of reading letters and overall applications in the context of structural opportunity. We discuss additional implications and possible recommendations for college access and admissions policy/practice.

More →


Jack Mountjoy.

This paper studies the causal impacts of public universities on the outcomes of their marginally admitted students. I use administrative admission records spanning all 35 public universities in Texas, which collectively enroll 10 percent of American public university students, to systematically identify and employ decentralized cutoffs in SAT/ACT scores that generate discontinuities in admission and enrollment. The typical marginally admitted student completes an additional year of education in the four-year sector, is 12 percentage points more likely to earn a bachelor's degree, and eventually earns 5-10 percent more than their marginally rejected but otherwise identical counterpart. Marginally admitted students pay no additional tuition costs thanks to offsetting grant aid; cost-benefit calculations show internal rates of return of 19-23 percent for the marginal students themselves, 10-12 percent for society (which must pay for the additional education), and 3-4 percent for the government budget. Finally, I develop a method to disentangle separate effects for students on the extensive margin of the four-year sector versus those who would fall back to another four-year school if rejected. Substantially larger extensive margin effects drive the results.

More →


Drew M. Anderson, David B. Monaghan, Jed Richardson.

This study found that the MATC Promise increased college attainment by encouraging Milwaukee high school students to access state and federal aid, and to consider matriculating to their local two-year college. The MATC Promise exemplifies the last-dollar model of college aid. If seniors at Milwaukee area public high schools complete academic milestones, apply for financial aid, qualify based on low family income, and matriculate to Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), then the Promise covers any remaining tuition charges. The message promoting free college was the program’s main element, since the funding support for eligible students came primarily from existing state and federal aid. We studied outcomes for the first four graduating classes after the Promise was launched, compared to the trend in Milwaukee for the previous six graduating classes. The rate of matriculation to MATC increased from 10 percent to 15 percent. There was no such increase in matriculation to other technical college districts around the state, suggesting that the increase was caused by the Promise. The increase in enrollment was larger among lower-income students and those in the urban Milwaukee Public Schools. Those students were more likely to apply for financial aid earlier, regardless of whether they ultimately qualified for the Promise, and their rate of matriculation to any college increased from 45 percent to 49 percent. There was no indication that attracting additional students to college led to lower graduation rates, though we were limited to examining credentials earned in two years or less.

More →


Jesper Eriksen, Shaun M. Dougherty.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs are prevalent in a European context, but often struggle with drop-out rates that exceed those of general upper-secondary education. Using Danish administrative data, we study the effects of reform-induced reductions in shares of VET students who did not pass their lower secondary final exams on passing GPA VET students. We find that passing students have a higher probability of remaining enrolled in VET after the first year of studies when entering a VET school with a higher share of below-passing peers. Studying outside options, we find that students become less likely to drop out of education entirely. The results are consistent with models of peer effects in which particularly unmotivated students become points of comparison for their peers, increasing their motivation and likelihood of remaining enrolled.

More →


Benjamin L. Castleman, Denise Deutschlander, Gabrielle Lohner.

While Hispanic students represent the fasting-growing segment of the American school-age population, substantial gaps exist in college enrollment and Bachelor’s attainment between Hispanic and White and Asian students. Numerous factors contribute to these disparities and disproportionally affect Hispanic youth. In this paper, we contribute evidence on the impact of an intensive college advising program on Hispanic students’ college participation and degree attainment. We report on a multi-cohort randomized controlled trial of College Forward, which provides individualized advising from junior year of high school through college for a majority Hispanic, lower-income student population in Texas. Students who receive College Forward advising are 7.1 percentage points more likely to earn a Bachelor’s degree within 5 years of high school graduation; this effect appears largely driven by shifting high school graduates from the extensive margin of not going to college at all to instead enroll at four-year colleges and universities. Despite the costs associated with intensive advising programs like College Forward, back of the envelope calculations suggest that the benefit from increased college graduation induced by the program outweighs operating costs in less than three years following college completion.

More →