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Lead Them to Water and Pay Them to Drink: An Experiment with Services and Incentives for College Achievement

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  • Joshua Angrist
  • Daniel Lang
  • Philip Oreopoulos

Abstract

High rates of attrition, delayed completion, and poor achievement are growing concerns at colleges and universities in North America. This paper reports on a randomized field experiment involving two strategies designed to improve these outcomes among first-year undergraduates at a large Canadian university. One treatment group was offered peer advising and organized study group services. Another was offered substantial merit-scholarships for solid, but not necessarily top, first year grades. A third treatment group combined both interventions. Service take-up rates were much higher for students offered both services and scholarships than for those offered services alone. Females also used services more than males. No program had an effect on grades for males. However, first-term grades were significantly higher for females in the two scholarship treatment groups. These effects faded somewhat by year's end, but remain significant for females who planned to take enough courses to qualify for a scholarship. There also appears to have been an effect on retention for females offered both scholarships and services. This effect is large enough to generate an overall increase in retention. On balance, the results suggest that a combination of services and incentives is more promising than either alone.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12790.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Publication status: published as Angrist, Joshua, Daniel Lang, and Philip Oreopoulos. “Incentives and Services for College Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Trial." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 1, 1 (January 2009): 136-163.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12790

Note: CH ED LS PE
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  1. Kremer, Michael Robert & Miguel, Edward A. & Thorton, Rebecca L, 2004. "Incentives to Learn," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt9kc4p47q, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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  13. Christopher Cornwell & David B. Mustard & Deepa J. Sridhar, 2006. "The Enrollment Effects of Merit-Based Financial Aid: Evidence from Georgia's HOPE Program," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 761-786, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Michael Kremer & Edward Miguel & Rebecca Thornton, 2009. "Incentives to Learn," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(3), pages 437-456, August.
  2. Lamarche, Carlos, 2011. "Measuring the incentives to learn in Colombia using new quantile regression approaches," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 278-288, November.
  3. Philip Oreopoulos & Daniel Lang & Joshua Angrist, 2009. "Incentives and Services for College Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Trial," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 136-63, January.
  4. Milligan, Kevin & Stabile, Mark, 2009. "Do Child Tax Benefits Affect the Wellbeing of Children? Evidence from Canadian Child Benefit Expansions," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2009-21, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 13 Mar 2009.
  5. Louis-Philippe Morin, 2010. "Estimating the Benefit of High School for College-Bound Students," Working Papers 1002E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
  6. Morin, Louis-Philippe, 2010. "Estimating the BenefiÂ…t of High School for College-Bound Students," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2010-3, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 30 Jan 2010.
  7. Francesco Giavazzi & Pietro Garibaldi & Andrea Ichino & Enrico Rettore, 2009. "College cost and time to complete a degree: Evidence from tuition discontinuities," Working Papers 354, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  8. Roland G. Fryer, Jr & Richard T. Holden, 2012. "Multitasking, Learning, and Incentives: A Cautionary Tale," NBER Working Papers 17752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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