The Effects of Targeted Recruitment and Comprehensive Supports for Low-Income High Achievers at Elite Universities: Evidence from Texas Flagships
Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 8:30 AM
Tuttle North (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
We study a set of interventions in Texas that were designed to overcome the multitude of hurdles faced by low-income, high-ability students in the higher education system. The Longhorn Opportunity Scholars (LOS) and Century Scholars (CS) programs were implemented in 1999 and 2000, respectively, and involved recruiting at specified low-income high schools, providing additional financial aid, and enhancing academic supports once enrolled in college if students attended University of Texas - Austin (LOS) or Texas A&M - College Station (CS). These two schools are the flagships of Texas public universities and are widely regarded as the number 1 and 2 ranked public universities in Texas, respectively. Using administrative data on all Texas students linked with their earnings, we implement difference-in-differences estimators that examine how the outcomes of high-ability students change across treated and matched untreated schools when the programs were implemented. Our findings differ across programs. For the CS program, enrollment at Texas A&M increases, and this increase comes at the expense of other 4-year research universities. However, there is no evident change in student educational outcomes or earnings. In contrast, the LOS program led to increased enrollment at UT-Austin from targeted high schools, and most of these students would have attended less-selective four-year and 2-year schools in the absence of the program. Enrolling at UT-Austin combined with supports led to a significant increase in graduation likelihood. There is also a shift in major choice, with students more likely to major in social sciences but no less likely to major in STEM. Finally, these students experience a large increase in earnings of between 60 and 70 percent post-college. These results suggest that sending high-achieving disadvantaged students to flagship institutions can generate substantial educational and earnings gains provided students are given appropriate supports.