Archives for college admissions



How Cost Impacts College Applications

A new NBER paper (abstract; PDF) by Amanda Pallais looks at how small fees impact the application behavior and outcomes of low-income students. Using data from the ACT, she found that an increase in the number of free score reports that students were permitted to send to colleges resulted in students sending their scores to a wider range of colleges, with low-income students attending more selective colleges. These outcomes were surprising because the non-free score reports were a mere $6. The abstract:

This paper estimates the sensitivity of students’ college application decisions to a small change in the cost of sending standardized test scores to colleges. Using confidential ACT micro data, I find that when the ACT increased from three to four the number of free score reports that ACT-takers could send, the fraction of test-takers sending four reports rose substantially while the fraction sending three fell by an offsetting amount. Students simultaneously sent their scores to a wider range of colleges. Using micro data from the American Freshman Survey, two identification strategies show that ACT-takers sent more college applications and low-income ACT-takers attended more selective colleges after the cost change. The first strategy compares ACT-takers before and after the cost change, controlling for time trends and covariates, and the second estimates difference-in-difference regressions using SAT-takers as a control group. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that by inducing low-income students to attend more selective colleges, the policy change significantly increased their expected earnings. Because the cost of sending an additional (non-free) ACT score was merely $6 throughout, this sizable behavioral change is surprising and suggests that students may use simple heuristics in making their application decisions. In such a setting, small policy perturbations can have large effects on welfare.



Exam High Schools: Not As Great As We Thought

Exam high schools are generally regarded as a cut above, turning out congressmen, scholars, and all-around high achievers. They account for over half of the top 109 American schools in the U.S. News and World Report best high schools list, and an incredible 20 out of 21 from Newsweek’s list of “public elite.”

But a new study from Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer of Harvard throws cold water on this notion, and calls into question whether the exam schools typically cited for excellence are, well, really all that excellent.

Writing for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Dobbie and Fryer take a fresh look into the measurable achievements of exam school students, specifically focusing on three well-known schools in New York City: Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, and Stuyvesant. While attending an exam school might be great for your overall education, and resume, this doesn’t come through in terms of increased test scores or college achievement. Here’s the abstract: Read More »



College Counseling and the Achievement Gap

Closing the black-white – and the rich-poor – achievement gap is a frequent topic of conversation on this blog. Economist Christopher Avery takes a look (ungated version here) at one intervention aimed at closing the gap: providing college counselors for high-achieving, low-income students. Read More »



The FREAK-est Links

Why both A-Rod and the Yankees will benefit from his contract. (Earlier) L.A. finds that “honor system” is futile on the subway. Survey finds college admissions still a blood sport. (Earlier) Brain studies show teenagers more prone to committing crimes. Read More »



The FREAK-est Links

“Anti-groping Appli” on cell phones now available for Japan’s female commuters. Will the growing wage gap affect elite colleges’ admissions? (Earlier) Coal-fired plants dominate electricity in China. (Earlier) Monkeys may have cognitive dissonance. (Earlier) Read More »