Panel: Community College Access and Finance

Friday, November 9, 2018: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
8212 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Joshua Goodman, Harvard University
Discussants:  Stephanie Cellini, George Washington University and Matthew D. Baird, RAND Corporation

How Much Do Tuition Subsidies Promote College Access? Evidence from Community College Taxing Districts
Paco Martorell, University of California, Davis, Brian McCall, University of Michigan and Isaac McFarlin, University of Florida

Community College Tuition and College Choice
Riley K. Acton, Michigan State University

Why Does Mentoring Matter? the Effect of Non-Financial Support on College Enrollment and Persistence
Celeste Carruthers, University of Tennessee, Kalena E. Cortes, Texas A&M University and Carolyn J. Heinrich, Vanderbilt University

Community colleges play a large role in the U.S. higher education system, with nearly 40% of all undergraduate students enrolling in them each year, and have recently become the focus of many local, state, and federal education policy initiatives. As policies that target these institutions are designed and implemented, it is of critical importance that the research community continues to evaluate their effectiveness and equity. This panel works to address this goal by bringing together experts from across the economics and education policy spheres to discuss the effects of both financial and non-financial policies and programs on community college access and success.  

Two papers exploit geographic variation in state community college systems to estimate the effects of community college tuition on college choice and student outcomes. The first, by Paco Matorell, Brian McCall, and Isaac McFarlin uses tuition variation induced by community college taxing districts in Texas and restricted-access Census data to find that public tuition subsidies promote public college attendance, particularly for high-income youth. The second, by Riley Acton, uses similar variation in Michigan and finds that reducing the tuition rate at a student’s local community college both increases community college attendance and deters students from attending lower quality private vocational colleges. A third paper, by Walt Ecton and Adela Soliz, looks at the institutional level to consider community colleges’ capacity to serve both student and labor market needs, finding that federal recession-era grants increased the capacity of community college to enroll and train students in vocational fields. These papers are complemented by work by Celeste Carruthers, Kalena Cortes, and Carolyn Heinrich that finds that non-financial interventions, such as mentoring, may also increase community college attendance and credit completion. 

All four papers use rigorous quasi-experimental methods and unique data sources to make meaningful contributions to the study of community college education. Moreover, the panel is chaired and critically discussed by experts in the higher education research field who will foster productive discussion between participants and audience members on the future of community college research, practice, and policy.

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