Current Issue: Volume 13, Issue 4, Fall 2018

Education Finance and Policy - Volume 13, Issue 4, Falll 2018


Financial Incentives and Educational Investment: The Impact of Performance-based Scholarships on Student Time Use. Lisa Barrow and Cecilia Elena Rouse. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2018, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 419–448.

We evaluate the effect of performance-based scholarship programs for postsecondary students on student time use and effort. We find evidence that financial incentives induced students to devote more time and effort to educational activities and allocate less time to other activities. Incentives did not generate impacts after eligibility ended and did not decrease students’ interest or enjoyment in learning. Evidence also suggests that students were motivated more by the incentives than simply the effect of additional money. A remaining puzzle is that larger scholarships did not generate larger responses in terms of effort.

Statewide Transfer Policies and Community College Student Success. Angela Boatman and Adela Soliz. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2018, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 449–483.

One way administrators and policy makers have responded to the complexity of the community college transfer process has been to create articulation agreements between two-year and four-year colleges in a state or region. Our study examines the effects of one such statewide articulation and transfer policy, the Ohio transfer module (TM). This agreement is intended to allow individuals who successfully complete the TM at one institution to transfer all of these credits to a receiving institution. We find that students who complete the TM are more likely to transfer to a four-year institution and earn associate's degrees than observationally similar peers who did not complete a TM. We also find suggestive evidence that students who complete the TM are able to bring more credits with them when they transfer. However, students who complete the TM also take slightly longer to complete their bachelor's degrees. Thus, although the TM may improve the probability that students will transfer, it may be inefficient for students, leading them to spend more time enrolled in college. Moreover, because only a small number of students complete the TM, this policy may not be far-reaching enough to dramatically improve Ohio's community college transfer rate.

In Pursuit of the Common Good: The Spillover Effects of Charter Schools on Public School Students in New York City. Sarah A. Cordes. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2018, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 484–512.

A particularly controversial topic in current education policy is the expansion of the charter school sector. This paper analyzes the spillover effects of charter schools on traditional public school (TPS) students in New York City. I exploit variation in both the timing of charter school entry and distance to the nearest charter school to obtain credibly causal estimates of the impacts of charter schools on TPS student performance, and I am among the first to estimate the impacts of charter school co-location. I further add to the literature by exploring potential mechanisms for these findings with school-level data on per pupil expenditures (PPE), and parent and teacher perceptions of schools. Briefly, I find charter schools significantly increase TPS student performance in both English Language Arts and math, and decrease the probability of grade retention. Effects increase with charter school proximity and are largest in TPSs co-located with charter schools. Potential explanations for improved performance include increased PPE, academic expectations, student engagement, and a more respectful and safe school environment after charter entry. The findings suggest that more charter schools in New York City may be beneficial at the margin, and co-location may be mutually beneficial for charter and traditional public schools.

The Effect of Community Traumatic Events on Student Achievement: Evidence from the Beltway Sniper Attacks. Seth Gershenson and Erdal Tekin. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2018, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 513–544.

Community traumatic events such as mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters have the potential to disrupt student learning. For example, these events can reduce instructional time by causing teacher and student absences, school closures, and disturbances to classroom and home routines. This paper uses a quasi-experimental research design to identify the effects of the 2002 “Beltway Sniper” attacks on student achievement in Virginia's public elementary schools. To identify the causal impact of these events, the empirical analysis uses a difference-in-differences strategy that exploits geographic variation in schools’ proximity to the attacks. The main results indicate that the attacks significantly reduced school-level proficiency rates in schools within five miles of an attack. Evidence of a causal effect is most robust for math proficiency rates in the third and fifth grades, and third-grade reading proficiency, suggesting that the shootings caused a decline in school proficiency rates of about 2 to 5 percent. Particularly concerning from an equity standpoint, these effects appear to be entirely driven by achievement declines in schools that serve higher proportions of racial minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Finally, results from supplementary analyses suggest these deleterious effects faded out in subsequent years.

The Sequential College Application Process. Jonathan Smith. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2018, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 545–575.

To demonstrate the sequential nature of the college application process, in this paper I analyze the evolution of applications among high-achieving low-income students through data on the exact timing of SAT score sends. I describe at what point students send scores to colleges and which score sends ultimately become applications, resulting in three main points. First, score sends are not synonymous with applications—rather, only 62 percent of score sends in this sample turn into applications. Second, the conversion from score send to application is nonrandom as it relates to college characteristics: Score sends are more likely to convert into applications when they are to colleges with lower tuition, higher graduation rates, and relatively near a student's home. Third, the timing of score sends is related to the probability of its becoming an application, whereby score sends sent relatively early are least likely to become applications. These facts imply that there is room for improvement when modeling the application process and, in addition, the timing of an intervention or policy may be critical to its success.

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