What We’re Reading: New Evidence on Educational Policies

March 26, 2012 | Blog

The recent conference of the Association for Education Finance and Policy, held in Boston, was a terrific event. Especially exciting was the large number of rigorous analyses on higher education policies.  Here are some highlights; a more complete set of papers is here.

1. Peter Hinrichs of Georgetown University examined racial segregation in higher education since 1968. He finds that segregation has diminished, in part because of declining enrollment in historically black colleges and universities.  The exposure of white students to black students has increased sharply since 2000 in private institutions but not in public institutions, and these trends appear concentrated in the South and West.  Far more perplexing is his suggestion that affirmative action bans in some states may have also contributed to declining segregation. But he is appropriately circumspect about these puzzling findings, noting that one also has to consider a range of other issues with regard to affirmative action (see p. 17).

2. Ben Castleman and Bridget Long of Harvard estimated the effects of a Florida need-based financial aid grant on bachelor’s degree completion.  Using a regression discontinuity design, the authors found that “an additional $1,000 in grant aid eligibility (in 2000 dollars) increased the probability of immediate enrollment at  a four-year university by 3.2 percentage points, while increasing the probability of staying continuously enrolled through the spring semester of students’ freshman year by 4.3 percentage points. An additional $1,000 in aid eligibility increased the cumulative number of credits students completed after three years by 2.1 credits and increased the probability of earning a bachelor’s degree within six years by 4.6 percentage points.”  On the other hand, Kevin Stange of U. Michigan finds that charging different amounts of tuition for different majors does not appear to impact major choice.

3. An analysis by Amanda Griffith of Wake Forest considered whether same-gender matching of professor to student enhances student performance.  She finds suggestive evidence that the growing presence of female faculty may contribute to the outstanding performance of women students, at least at the private selective college she studied.

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