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Lesley J. Turner, Oded Gurantz.

College attendance has increased significantly over the last few decades, but dropout rates remain high, with fewer than half of all adults ultimately obtaining a postsecondary credential. This project investigates whether one-on-one college coaching improves college attendance and completion outcomes for former low- and middle-income income state aid recipients who attended college but left prior to earning a degree. We conducted a randomized control trial with approximately 8,000 former students in their early- to mid-20s. Half of participants assigned to the treatment group were offered the opportunity to receive coaching services from InsideTrack, with all communication done remotely via phone or video. Intent-to-treat analyses based on assignment to coaching shows no impacts on college enrollment and we can rule out effects larger than a two-percentage point (5%) increase in subsequent Fall enrollment.

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David B. Monaghan, Elizabeth A. Hawke.

“Free college” programs are widespread in American higher education. They are discussed as addressing college access, affordability, inequality, and skills shortages. Many are last-dollar tuition guarantees restricted to use at single community colleges. Using student-level data spanning the transition to college, we investigate how two similar local community college tuition guarantees in Pennsylvania affected college-going outcomes. The Morgan Success Scholarship has large impacts on community college attendance and associate degree attainment. The program diverts students away from four-year colleges, though much of this effect is temporary. Meanwhile, we find little evidence that the Community College of Philadelphia’s 50th Anniversary Scholars program has any impact on college-going behavior. We suggest reasons for divergent findings and offer suggestions for practice.

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Edward Kim, Joshua Goodman, Martin R. West.

The increasing prevalence of private tutoring has received minimal scholarly attention in the United States. We use over 25 years of geocoded data on the universe of U.S. private tutoring centers to estimate the size and growth of this industry and to identify predictors of tutoring center locations. We document four important facts. First, from 1997 to 2022, the number of private tutoring centers more than tripled, from about 3,000 to 10,000, with steady growth through 2015 before a more recent plateau. Second, the number and growth of private tutoring centers is heavily concentrated in geographic areas with high income and parental education. More than half of tutoring centers are in areas in the top quintile of income. Third, even conditional on income and parental education, private tutoring centers tend to locate in areas with many Asian American families, suggesting important differences by ethnic or cultural identity in demand for such services. Fourth, we see only marginal evidence that prevalence of private tutoring centers is related to the structure of K-12 school markets, including the prevalence of private schools and charter or magnet school options. The rapid rise in high-income families’ demand for this form of private educational investment mimics phenomena observed in other spheres of education and family life, with potentially important implications for inequality in student outcomes.

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David B. Monaghan.

“Free college” (sometimes called Promise) programs are common in U.S. higher education. Reviewing 88 studies of 25 state and local programs, I provide a nuanced picture of the mechanisms through which these programs may work and their likely effects on students, communities, and colleges. Some commonly-claimed mechanisms for these effects—e.g., improving secondary school environments or impacting residential decisions—lack empirical support or are implausible for most existing programs. Programs are consistently found to shift college-bound students to colleges where they can use more scholarship dollars, increase enrollment at eligible colleges, and (for generous local programs only) increase community school district enrollment. Less consistently, programs boost college participation and thereby degree attainment, but evidence for direct effects on college performance, persistence or completion net of enrollment is weak. There is insufficient or inconsistent evidence for program effects on secondary school performance and graduation, post-college income and debt, community population or property values, and inequality reduction according to gender, race, or socioeconomic status.

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Katherine Miller-Bains, Stephen Yu, Daphna Bassok.

Demand for child care in the United States outpaces supply. Understanding access issues is critical for addressing them and supporting children, families, and the economy. However, the most widely available proxy for child care supply—authorized capacity—likely overestimates care availability. Authorized capacity represents the maximum children a provider can legally serve based on safety regulations and physical characteristics of the site. However, the slots available across sites can be constrained by factors not captured by authorized capacity, including the combination of ages currently enrolled and staffing at a site. If the gap between authorized capacity and “current capacity” is large, we stand to underestimate needed investments to improve access. This study quantifies the gap between providers’ “current capacity” as reported in a fall 2022 survey and authorized capacity per administrative records. Using data from 1,968 home- and center-based providers in Virginia, we find three key limitations of authorized capacity as a proxy of supply. First, providers’ current capacity was 74% of their authorized capacity on average. Authorized capacity would overestimate child care availability by more than 30,000 slots across the providers in our sample. Second, center-based providers that accepted child care subsidies and those in neighborhoods with a greater concentration of poverty or people of color had significantly larger discrepancies between their current and authorized capacity. Finally, we find centers that reported challenges hiring and retaining staff had larger gaps between their current and authorized capacity compared to providers that did not report staffing challenges. These findings suggest the need for measures that more accurately and dynamically capture the number of children a provider can serve to better describe and address access inequities.

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David B. Monaghan, Crystal Almanzar, Madison Laughman, Allyson Ritchie.

Promise programs are discussed as a policy movement that began with the 2005 launch of the Kalamazoo Promise. Since then, programs bearing the Promise label or sharing similar features have spread across the higher educational landscape, appearing in most states and across postsecondary sectors. Simultaneously, scholarly literature discussing these programs has burgeoned. And yet, scholars and others are unable to formulate a clear conception of what a Promise program is and what if anything sets such a program apart from other scholarship programs (e.g., state need-based grants). In this paper, we examine how scholars have discussed these programs over time. We begin with the initial theorization of the Kalamazoo Promise as a case and observe its use as a prototype in the formulation of a general model once “Promise program” was established as a category. We follow how the spread and transformation of “Promise programs” was reflected in repeated partial reconceptualization. We find three competing conceptual models emerging in sequence: 1) a thick, place-based causal model derived as a generalization of the Kalamazoo Promise, 2) a thin empirical model crafted in the aftermath of the launch of the Tennessee Promise, and 3) a partially acknowledged minimal or symbolic model advanced haltingly in response to critiques of last-dollar community college state programs. Scholarly conceptualization is largely reactive to empirical program diffusion and transformation, though scholarly idealization may have played a role in this diffusion itself.

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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.

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Renzhi Jing, Sam Heft-Neal, Zetianyu Wang, Jie Chen, Minghao Qiu, Isaac M. Opper, Zachary Wagner, Eran Bendavid.

Increasing educational attainment is one of the most important and effective tools for health and economic improvements. The extent to which extreme climate events disrupt education, resulting in fewer years of schooling and reduced educational attainment, remains under-studied. Children in low- and middle-income countries may be uniquely vulnerable to loss of schooling after such disasters due to the poor physical condition of schools and the lack of resources to rebuild and mitigate unexpected household shocks. Our analysis assesses this overlooked social cost of tropical cyclones on schooling attainment.

We study the education records of nearly 5.1 million people living in 13 low- and middle-income countries that were exposed to tropical cyclones between 1954-2010. We find that exposure to tropical cyclones during preschool age is associated with a 2.7 percentage point decrease in primary school enrollment on average (14.2% decrease), with larger effects from more intense storms (up to 28% decrease for the most intense storms). These effects are more pronounced among school-age girls compared to boys and are greater in areas less accustomed to experiencing tropical cyclones. We estimate that, across all LMICs, tropical cyclone exposure has resulted in more than 410,000 children not attending primary school in the last 20 years, leading to a reduction of more than 4.1 million total years of schooling. These impacts, identified among some of the world’s poorest populations, may grow in importance as exposure to severe tropical cyclones is projected to increase with climate change.

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Stefan Arora-Jonsson, Ema Kristina Demir, Axel Norgren, Karl Wennberg.

Research on school improvement has accumulated an extensive list of factors that facilitate turnarounds at underperforming schools. Given that contextual or resource constraints may limit the possibilities of putting all of these factors in place, an important question is what is necessary and sufficient to turn a school around. We use a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) of 77 Swedish schools studied over 12 years to answer this question. Our core finding is that there is no “silver bullet” solution. There are, instead, several distinct combinations of factors that can enable a turnaround. The local school context is essential for which combinations of factors are necessary and sufficient for school turnaround. We discuss implications for research on school improvement and education policy.

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Matthew A. Kraft, Virginia S. Lovison.

Budget constraints and limited supplies of local tutors have caused many K-12 school districts to pivot from individual tutoring in-person toward small-group tutoring online to expand access to personalized instruction. We conduct a field experiment to explore the effect of increasing student-tutor ratios on middle school students’ math achievement and growth during an online tutoring program. We leverage a novel feature of the program where tutors often taught individual and small-group tutoring sessions, allowing them to directly compare their experiences across these settings. Both experimental estimates and tutor survey responses suggest 1:1 tutoring is more effective than 3:1 tutoring online. Tutoring small groups in an online format presents additional challenges for personalizing instruction, developing relationships, fostering participation, and managing student behavior.

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