EF&P Takeaways

EFP Winter 2020 15(1)

This century, high school students have increasingly enrolled in academic courses at the expense of enrollments in vocational courses (see the figure below).

Vocational education is a key part of the high school curriculum. However, little is known about what factors drive enrollment in vocational courses, and the effects of enrollment on early careers. A new EFP article by researchers at Georgia State University and the University of Michigan addresses this gap.

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To improve students’ academic achievement, some policymakers have called for increasing the amount of time students spend receiving instruction in school. Educational leaders thus frequently consider either extending the length of the school year or extending the school day. Derek Wu, from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, examined the effects of instructional time on academic achievement.

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During the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Education began issuing waivers from No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB’s) requirements to states implementing a new version of differentiated school accountability. A key feature of these reforms required states to implement targeted reforms in schools contributing to a state’s achievement gaps. However, states were given considerable flexibility in how they supported these “Focus Schools.” Kentucky articulated a comprehensive school planning process that included a suggested menu of prescriptive whole-school reforms (e.g., extended learning time, teacher collaboration, professional development, data-driven instructional practices, and computer-aided instruction for low-performing students).

Understanding the effects of such differentiated accountability plans is important due to their continuation under the recent reauthorization of NCLB as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Sade Bonilla and Thomas Dee of UMass Amherst and Stanford University, respectively, examined the effects of these reforms in the state of Kentucky.

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State merit-based scholarships were established to retain talent in-state, improve access to higher education, and improve student completion rates. While there is a considerable research base on the relationship between financial aid and enrollment, less is known about the relationship between financial aid and college completion, and even less that focuses on specific types of aid.

Researchers at the University of New Mexico investigated the effects of the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship (NMLLS), a “low-bar” merit-based completion program, on student completion rates.

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In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education implemented a process through which states could apply for exemptions from some of the core requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). These exemptions were contingent on states adopting reforms that targeted schools with large within-school achievement gaps between groups of students, or “Focus Schools.” A new study by Steven Hemelt at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Brian Jacob at the University of Michigan in vol. 15, issue 1 of EFP investigated the effects of Focus-school reforms in the state of Michigan on a range of educational outcomes.

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State appropriations for higher education have decreased considerably over the past few decades. Concurrently, states began earmarking portions of their lottery revenues towards higher education funding. However, limited research is available to address the effects of these state lottery earmarks on actual appropriations to higher education. To address this gap, researchers at Miami University Oxford, East Tennessee State University, and Salus University examined twenty years of state funding data to determine these effects.

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EFP Fall 2019 14(4)

Duration and intensity of schooling often come up in discussions about educational effectiveness and in education policy debates. Schooling duration, or years of schooling, has previously been linked to greater learning outcomes. Whereas, schooling intensity, or the amount of content covered in a year, is less well understood. Given too much content, students will be overwhelmed, but too little content will result in students being bored. Therefore, more research is needed to better understand how schooling intensity affects student learning.

A new study by by Vincenzo Andrietti and Xuejuan Su in vol. 14, issue 4 helps to bridge this gap.

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Teachers are an integral part of our education system. Policymakers at the state and district levels have focused on ways to reward and retain effective teachers. The majority of states provide permanent salary increases for teachers who have earned a graduate degree. The average salary increase for graduate degrees costs approximately $174 per student. As such, from a policy perspective, it is important to understand (a) if teachers with a graduate degree are more effective than their peers with undergraduate degrees and (b) if teachers are more effective after earning a graduate degree. A new study by Kevin Bastian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in vol. 14, issue 4 of EFP investigates this important issue.

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Amid growing concerns over college affordability and rising student loan debt, federal policymakers have focused on simplifying the college-going process and improving information for students as they consider their college options. In 2012, the US Department of Education and Obama administration released the shopping sheet (recently renamed the college financing plan), a standardized financial aid award letter that provides students with simplified information about college costs, loan options, and college outcomes. Over 3,000 postsecondary institutions now use the shopping sheet.

A new study by Kelly Rosinger at Pennsylvania State University in vol. 14, issue 4 examines the effects of simplifying financial aid offers.

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With rapidly increasing costs of college, many students and families struggle to pay for postsecondary education. In fact, nearly 70% of students take out student loans through federal financial aid policies to help finance their education. However, even with federal financial aid options, many students still are unable to fully finance their postsecondary education. Therefore, parents often help supplement loans available to their children through cosigning on a loan, borrowing against their home equity, or via debt/loans taken out in their own names.

As financing college plays a critical role in access to postsecondary education, many students may not be able to access or attend college because of financial constraints. A new study by Daniel Ringo in vol. 14, issue 4 investigates if there are students who fail to attend college because of their lack of access to credit markets.

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With costs of higher education skyrocketing, relatively low-cost community colleges play a critical role in policy debates regarding college access. Previous research on community colleges has focused on outcomes for those enrolled in post-secondary education in the 1980s and 1990s. The most recent research on the topic has primarily relied on administrative data - which is limited in terms of examining outcomes for those without previous work experience, and does not allow for comparison to a control group of adults who did not attend college. In recent years, “free college” policies promise free (or reduced) tuition for in-state students to attend community colleges. With the increase in these new free college policies, in tandem with limited previous research, there is a need for further research on community colleges.

A new study Dave Marcotte at American University in vol. 14, issue 4, helps to bridge this gap.

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While significant research has been devoted to student loan borrowing and default, considerably less attention has been paid to other repayment outcomes. Yet, federal student loan policy has seen two recent shifts toward 1) measurement of student loan outcomes using repayment rates versus default rates and 2) increased use of Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans that tie repayment to borrowers’ incomes.

A new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and RTI International in vol. 14, issue 4 of EFP examines these trends.

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Place-based promise scholarships are a relatively recent innovation aimed at expanding college access, while promoting regional economic development through scholarships awarded to students in distinct geographic areas. Following the launch of a place-based scholarship in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2005, over 100 communities have implemented similar promise programs. Despite the rapid growth in these scholarship programs, research regarding the effects of the programs has not kept up. A new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in vol. 14, issue 4, helps to bridge this gap.

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