Current Issue: Volume 14, Issue 4, Fall 2019

Education Finance and Policy - Volume 14, Issue 4, Fall 2019


The Returns to Education at Community Colleges: New Evidence from the Education Longitudinal Survey. Dave E. Marcotte. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2019, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 523–547

I use nationally representative data from the Education Longitudinal Survey (ELS) to update the literature on returns to community college education. I compare the experiences of the ELS cohort that graduated high school in 2004 with those of the National Education Longitudinal Survey (NELS) cohort that graduated high school more than a decade earlier, in 1992. I estimate that community college students from the ELS cohort were more likely to be employed, and that those who were earned about 21 percent more than comparable peers with only a high school education. This estimate is at least as large as that observed for the NELS cohort, though I find some evidence that the value of an associate's degree is smaller for the more recent cohort. I compare these results with those from the burgeoning body of research using state administrative data to answer similar questions.


Parental Credit Constraints and Child College Attendance. Daniel Ringo. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2019, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 548–571

Parents in the United States frequently supplement the student loans available to their children by cosigning on a loan, borrowing against their home equity, or with unsecured debt in their own names. This paper investigates whether some students are constrained from attending and completing college by their parents’ lack of access to credit markets by linking individual parental credit scores to their children's educational attainment. I find that good parental credit significantly improves the child's probability of attending college. Suggestive evidence is provided that the estimated relationship may be causal and not biased by omitted factors, such as unobserved ability or other personality characteristics.


The Promise of Place-Based Investment in Postsecondary Access and Success: Investigating the Impact of the Pittsburgh Promise. Lindsay C. Page, Jennifer E. Iriti, Danielle J. Lowry, and Aaron M. Anthony. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2019, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 572–600

Place-based promise scholarships are a relatively recent innovation in the space of college access and success. Although evidence on the impact of some of the earliest place-based scholarships has begun to emerge, the rapid proliferation of promise programs largely has preceded empirical evidence of their impact. We utilize regression discontinuity and difference-in-differences analyses to investigate the causal effect of the Pittsburgh Promise on students’ immediate postsecondary attainment and early college persistence outcomes. Both analytic approaches yield similar conclusions. As a result of Promise eligibility, Pittsburgh Public School graduates are approximately 5 percentage points more likely to enroll in college, particularly four-year institutions; 10 percentage points more likely to select a Pennsylvania institution; and 4 to 7 percentage points more likely to enroll and persist into a second year of postsecondary education. Impacts vary with changes over time in the program structure and opportunities, and are larger for those responsive to the Promise opportunity, as instrumental variable-adjusted results reveal. Although the Pittsburgh Promise represents a sizeable investment, conservative cost–benefit calculations indicate positive returns. Even so, an important question is whether locally funded programs such as the Pittsburgh Promise are economically sustainable in the long run.


Can Simplifying Financial Aid Offers Impact College Enrollment and Borrowing? Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Evidence. Kelly Ochs Rosinger. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2019, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 601–626

Recent policy and research efforts have focused on simplifying the college-going process, improving transparency around college costs, and helping students make informed decisions. In 2012, the Obama administration released the “shopping sheet,” a standardized financial aid offer that is intended to provide students with simplified information about costs, loan options, and college outcomes. This paper examines the impact of the shopping sheet (adopted by more than 400 four-year colleges in two years) using: (1) administrative data from a field experiment among admitted and already-enrolled students at a public university, and (2) college-level data from a quasi-experiment among four-year colleges. Findings provide some evidence that information in the shopping sheet relating a college's graduation rate to other colleges led to decreased borrowing at colleges with poor graduation outcomes. Additionally, the shopping sheet decreased borrowing at colleges that enroll high shares of students receiving federal student aid and underrepresented minority students. These findings indicate the shopping sheet may be particularly salient to students who traditionally face higher informational barriers during the college-going process.


Another Day Another Dollar Metric? An Event History Analysis of Student Loan Repayment. Johnathan G. Conzelmann, T. Austin Lacy, and Nichole D. Smith. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2019, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 627–651

Students increasingly borrow money to attend postsecondary education. Yet, little attention in the literature has been paid to the repayment of student loans, aside from failure indicators like default. This study examines a nationally representative sample of bachelor's degree recipients and the time it takes to reach different repayment thresholds on federal student loans. Motivated by a new federal emphasis on student loan repayment rates, we use event history analysis to show that bachelor's degree recipients have little trouble paying down $1 of their principal balance upon entering repayment. After just six months, 65 percent of this student borrower population had already done so, often paying back much more than $1. However, borrowers enrolled in federal Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans took much longer to pay down any loan balance, and many never did in the time we observed their repayment. The consistently negative relationship we find between IDR and paying down loan balances highlights a tension between repayment rate policies and the push for IDR reform of the U.S. repayment system. We discuss the policy implications of these findings and offer an alternative repayment metric to accommodate the contrasting goals and structures of standard repayment schedules versus income-contingent repayment policies.


A Degree Above? The Value-Added Estimates and Evaluation Ratings of Teachers with a Graduate Degree. Kevin C. Bastian. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2019, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 652–678

In the present study I use teacher value added and evaluation rating data from North Carolina public schools to estimate the signaling and human capital effects of graduate degrees. These analyses consider the effects of graduate degrees, overall, and the effects of graduate degrees inside and outside teachers’ area(s) of teaching. Signaling analyses show that those with a graduate degree in their area of teaching have comparable value-added estimates and receive higher evaluation ratings than teachers with undergraduate degrees only. Human capital analyses indicate that in-area graduate degrees benefit teacher value added in several comparisons and predict higher evaluation ratings on the Leadership standard. Signaling and human capital effects for out-of-area graduate degrees are generally negative or insignificant. Taken together, these results present a more comprehensive and nuanced view of the effectiveness of teachers with graduate degrees. Future analyses should assess additional outcome measures and continue focusing on the alignment between the graduate degree content and the teaching assignment.


The Impact of Schooling Intensity on Student Learning: Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment. Vincenzo Andrietti and Xuejuan Su. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2019, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 679–701

This paper uses a quasi-natural policy experiment in Germany, the G8 reform, to examine the impact of schooling intensity on student learning. The G8 reform compresses secondary school for academic-track students from nine to eight years, while holding fixed the overall academic content and total instruction time required for graduation, resulting in a higher schooling intensity per grade. Using German extension of the Programme for International Student Assessment data, we find that this reform improves test scores on average, but the effect differs across subgroups of students. The reform effect is larger for girls than for boys, for students with German-born parents than for those with immigrant parents, and for students having more books at home. The heterogeneous reform effects cannot be explained by changes in observed channels. Instead, quantile regression results suggest that unobserved heterogeneity plays an important role: Whereas high-performing students significantly improve their test scores, the lowest-performing students hardly improve at all after the reform. We interpret the unobserved heterogeneity as reflecting students’ capability to cope with the increase in schooling intensity.