The Efficacy of Higher Education Grant Programs
Thursday, November 12, 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Tuttle North (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Lincoln H. Groves, University of Wisconsin
Panel Chairs: Sarah Cohodes, Harvard University
Discussants: Sandy Baum, George Washington University
Education is perceived as a great equalizing factor in the United States. While children start at different points on the socioeconomic spectrum, there is a strong belief that higher education is the surest path to the middle class and prosperity in America. However, escalating college costs and growing income inequality over the past several decades have created more obstacles for low-income children seeking a path towards financial security as adults. This panel investigates outcomes from four distinct tuition assistance programs which sought, in part, to increase the post-secondary attainment levels for vulnerable groups by reducing the financial burdens placed upon students and their families. In addition to these program evaluations, panelists will address how the structure of these tuition supports led to more or less effective targeting of individuals on the margin of high school completion, college attendance, or post-secondary degree completion. This broader discussion seeks to provide insights into whether this particular subset of grant programs actually increased educational outcomes for the intended recipients or whether they simply subsidized education costs for students which would have completed college anyway.
The first paper in this panel revisits the impacts of the Social Security Student Benefit Program (SSSBP) explored by Dynarski (AER, 2003). Using more data and refined methods to account for heterogeneity in response to program cessation, the authors find that the elimination of the SSSBP impacted a very specific margin of students – those going from a high school diploma to an Associate’s degree – while not influencing the likelihood of degree receipt for higher levels of educational attainment. The second paper studies how the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship program affected graduation rates at the University of New Mexico. Research reveals large gains in college completion rates for high ability students but minimal or negative impacts on students at the bottom half of the grade distribution. The third paper explores the first-year effects of Say Yes to Education scholarship program in Buffalo, NY. While the authors report null findings on high school graduation, they find large and significant increases in the college matriculation rates of qualifying high school graduates into two-year institutions. Finally, the fourth paper examines another place-based scholarship program: Kalamazoo Promise. In this research, the authors investigate the cost-effectiveness of the program by considering also the heterogeneous effects on degree attainment. They estimate cost-benefit ratios by student type and conclude that the average social internal rate of return of the program exceeds 10 percent.