Going, going, gone: the effects of aid policies on graduation at three large public institutions
This paper exploits uniquely detailed data and cross-institution variation in aid for three large public universities to identify the effects of aid on the probability of college graduation. The results indicate that need-based and merit-based aid both increase graduation rates at large public institutions, but primarily through the types of students that â€˜selectâ€™ these institutions. Merit-based aid facilitates an institution attracting students who have higher observed academic ability that raises the probability of graduation. Need-based aid enables an institution to attract students with non-academic attributes such as social and cultural networks that, while often unobserved, improve graduation success. Broadly, our results suggest that recent aid policy that has moved away from need-based aid for low-income students (reducing their ability to find the best institutional match) and toward merit-based aid (that alters the distribution of high ability students across colleges) could foster stagnant graduation rates even with rising enrollment rates that have been observed over the last three decades. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLP 2006
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