Promoting Success in Postsecondary Education and Beyond
Monday, June 13, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Clement House, 3rd Floor, Room 02 (London School of Economics)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Discussants: Dave Marcotte, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Richard Murphy, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics; University of Texas at Austin
Panel Chairs: Seth Gershenson, American University
Large, persistent socio-demographic gaps in college attendance, persistence, and graduation rates are troubling, as educational attainment, particularly postsecondary education, improves a variety of socioeconomic outcomes and facilitates upward socioeconomic mobility. This panel includes three papers that investigate the efficacy of three distinct policy interventions that aim to improve the post-secondary success, and ultimately the labor market success, of disadvantaged groups and reduce inequalities in fundamentally important long-run socioeconomic outcomes. Each paper does so in a unique context.
The first paper investigates the financial returns to attending community colleges in the U.S. context. Community colleges’ low tuition provides access to post-secondary education for students of limited means. Previous research on community colleges’ influence on earnings and career outcomes suggests that community college is a good investment. However, the evidence base on this issue primarily comes from data on cohorts of students who attended community colleges more than twenty years ago. In the meantime, the market for higher education and the broader labor market have changed drastically. This paper updates our understanding of the efficacy of community colleges by providing new evidence on the employment and earnings effects of community college education using data from the Educational Longitudinal Survey cohort, which graduated from high school and began studying in community colleges at the start of the Great Recession.
The second paper addresses the impact of financial aid (tuition assistance) for low income students in the U.K. context, where there is limited evidence on the causal effect of these payments on the intensive margin. The second paper significantly furthers our understanding of these crucial issues by studying a unique form of non-linear means tested financial aid which is unadvertised, varies substantially across institutions, and is subject to shifts in generosity across cohorts. The authors use student-level administrative data from 10 English universities and rigorous quasi-experimental methods to identify the effects of aid receipt on college completion rates, annual course scores, and degree class.
Finally, the third paper moves away from financial resources to study the impact of a low cost, scalable intervention provided to first year, first semester students at a private, selective, midsized university in the U.S.: a voluntary peer advising program. Compared to the K-12 educational context, relatively little is known about the postsecondary interventions that improve educational outcomes during the first year of postsecondary schooling. This is troubling, as many students, particularly boys, struggle to adjust to college life. This paper contributes to this gap in the literature by exploiting the random assignment of peer advisors to students to estimate (i) the impact of being assigned a same-sex peer advisor on students‘ takeup of the advising program and (ii) the impact of meeting with the assigned peer advisor on postsecondary persistence, performance (i.e., GPA), and graduation.
Together, the papers in this panel further our understanding of the types of postsecondary settings and interventions that promote educational and labor market success for two socio-demographic groups who currently attend and complete postsecondary education at disproportionately low rates: low income and male students.