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Generally, need-based financial aid improves students’ academic outcomes. However, the largest source of need-based grant aid in the United States, the Federal Pell Grant Program (Pell), has a mixed evaluation record. We assess the minimum Pell Grant in a regression discontinuity framework, using Kentucky administrative data. We focus on whether and how year-to-year changes in aid eligibility and interactions with other sources of aid attenuate Pell’s estimated effects on post-secondary outcomes. This evaluation complements past work by assessing explanations for the null or muted impacts found in our analysis and other Pell evaluations. We also discuss the limitations of using regression discontinuity methods to evaluate Pell—or other interventions with dynamic eligibility criteria—with respect to generalizability and construct validity.
Scholars disagree about the effect out-of-state university students have on potential in-state students. Despite paying a premium to attend state universities, researchers argue that out-of-state students may come at a cost to in-state students by negatively affecting academic quality or by crowding out in-state students. To study this relationship, we examine the effect of a 2016 policy at a highly ranked state flagship university that removed the limit on how many out-of-state students it could enroll. We find the policy caused an increase in out-of-state enrollment by around 29 percent and increased tuition revenue collected by the university by 47 percent. We argue that this revenue was used to fund increases in financial aid disbursed at the university, particularly to students from low-income households, indicating that out-of-state students cross-subsidize lower income students. We also fail to find evidence that this increase in out-of-state students had any effect on several measures of academic quality.
During the Great Recession and in the years that immediately followed, previous research has well-documented that U.S. public school districts receiving larger shares of their funding from state governments experienced larger declines in expenditures per student, as the GR impacted state tax bases more than it impacted local tax bases. Using detailed financial data from the academic years 2004 to 2020, we analyze the longer-term effects of the GR on a broader array of U.S. public school district finances. Employing both difference-in-differences and event study approaches, our results indicate that public school expenditures and unspent end-of-year fund balances recovered and eventually exceeded pre-GR levels on an inflation-adjusted and per-student basis. However, the funding increases were heterogeneous such that districts receiving larger shares of funding from states were less successful at increasing spending and fund balances through 2020—more than ten years after the GR officially ended. Our empirical strategy survives a host of robustness checks. This pattern is concerning as more state-dependent districts tend to have higher proportions of disadvantaged students.
In 2006, the federal government effectively uncapped student borrowing for graduate programs with the introduction of the Graduate PLUS loan program. Access to additional federal loans increased graduate students’ borrowing and shifted the composition of their loans from private to federal debt. However, the increase in borrowing limits did not improve access to existing programs overall or for underrepresented groups. Nor did access to additional loan aid result in significant increase in constrained students’ persistence or degree receipt. We document that among programs in which a larger share of graduate students had exhausted their annual federal loan eligibility before the policy change—and thus were more exposed to the expansion in access to credit—federal borrowing and prices increased.
The media discourse on student loans plays a significant role in the way that policy actors conceptualize challenges and potential solutions related to student debt. This study examines the racialized language in student loan news articles published in eight major news outlets between 2006 and 2021. We found that 18% of articles use any racialized language, though use has accelerated since 2018. This increase appears to be driven by terms that denote groups of people instead of structural problems, with 8% of articles mentioning “Black” but less than 1% mentioning “racism.” These findings emphasize the importance of treating the media as a policy actor capable of shaping the salience of racialization in discussions about student loans.
Efforts to attract and retain effective educators in high poverty public schools have had limited success. Dallas ISD addressed this challenge by using information produced by its evaluation and compensation reforms as the basis for effectiveness-adjusted payments that provided large compensating differentials to attract and retain effective teachers in its lowest achievement schools. The Accelerating Campus Excellence (ACE) program offers salary supplements to educators with records of high performance who are willing to work in the most educationally disadvantaged schools. We document that ACE resulted in immediate and sustained increases in student achievement, providing strong evidence that the multi-measure evaluation system identifies effective educators who foster the development of cognitive skills. The improvements at ACE schools were dramatic, bringing average achievement in the previously lowest performing schools close to the district average. When ACE stipends are largely eliminated, a substantial fraction of highly effective teachers leaves, and test scores fall. This highlights the central importance of the performance-based incentives to attract and retain effective educators in previously low-achievement schools.
We evaluate the effects of the 2020 student debt moratorium that paused payments for student loan borrowers. Using administrative credit panel data, we show that the payment pause led to a sharp drop in student loan payments and delinquencies for borrowers subject to the debt moratorium, as well as an increase in credit scores. We find a large stimulus effect, as borrowers substitute increased private debt for paused public debt. Comparing borrowers whose loans were frozen with borrowers whose loans were not frozen due to differences in whether the government owned the loans, we show that borrowers used the new liquidity to increase borrowing on credit cards, mortgages, and auto loans rather than avoid delinquencies. The effects are concentrated among borrowers without prior delinquencies, who saw no change in credit scores, and we see little effects following student loan forgiveness announcements. The results highlight an important complementarity between liquidity and credit, as liquidity increases the demand for credit even as the supply of credit is fixed.
We estimate the societal costs associated with corequisite and traditional pre-requisite English developmental education and compare them to societal benefits. Our context is the randomized controlled trial conducted by Miller et al. (2022) that estimated the effects of three different approaches to English corequisites implemented in 5 Texas community colleges. The main drivers of differential costs across pathways and colleges are the number of credit and contact hours in each pathway, class sizes, and the type of faculty used to teach courses (adjunct or full-time). Corequisites are less expensive than pre-requisite pathways in two colleges, they are more expensive yet roughly similar in two other colleges, and they are much more expensive in one college. Miller et al. (2022) find that corequisites induced more students to pass the required college-level English course in all colleges, but do not find that they impacted persistence in college. Considering the enormous societal benefit of a college education, corequisites are most likely the preferred policy from a societal point of view even when they are more expensive to implement and given that they only have a small impact on the likelihood of completing college. From students’ point of view, corequisites are always preferred because they require less tuition and have a higher likelihood of success.
In the U.S., state politicians directly influence legislation and budget decisions that can substantially affect public education spending and students. Does the political party of elected officials matter for these outcomes? We use a regression discontinuity design to analyze close house and gubernatorial elections from 1982 to 2016 and find that the impact of Democratic control of state government depends on whether elections occur during a presidential election year. On average, Democratic states spend less per capita on K-12 education. This trend, however, reverses when Democrats secure marginal control during off-cycle elections. Outside of presidential election years, we find increased state expenditures on both K-12 education and higher education. These increases coincided with smaller K-12 class sizes, relatively higher high school diploma rates, and expanded college enrollment. Our results highlight the importance of considering how federal political contexts influence the effects of state-level politics on education finance and outcomes.