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Access to 4-Year Public Colleges and Degree Completion


  • Joshua Goodman
  • Michael Hurwitz
  • Jonathan Smith


Does access to 4-year colleges affect degree completion for students who would otherwise attend 2-year colleges? Admission to Georgia’s 4-year public sector requires minimum SAT scores. Regression discontinuity estimates show that access to this sector increases 4-year college enrollment and college quality, largely by diverting students from 2-year colleges. Access substantially increases bachelor’s degree completion rates for these relatively low-skilled students. SAT-retaking behavior suggests students value access to 4-year public colleges, though perhaps less than they should. Our results imply that absolute college quality matters more than match quality, and they suggest potential unintended consequences of free community college proposals.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua Goodman & Michael Hurwitz & Jonathan Smith, 2017. "Access to 4-Year Public Colleges and Degree Completion," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 829-867.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/690818
    DOI: 10.1086/690818

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    Cited by:

    1. Joshua Goodman & Oded Gurantz & Jonathan Smith, 2020. "Take Two! SAT Retaking and College Enrollment Gaps," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 115-158, May.
    2. Bleemer , Zachary, 2018. "The Effect Of Selective Public Research University Enrollment: Evidence From California," University of California at Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education qt2b22k86h, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley.
    3. Sandra E. Black & Jeffrey T. Denning & Jesse Rothstein, 2020. "Winners and Losers? The Effect of Gaining and Losing Access to Selective Colleges on Education and Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 26821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Joshua Goodman & Michael Hurwitz & Christine Mulhern & Jonathan Smith, 2019. "O Brother, Where Start Thou? Sibling Spillovers in College Enrollment," NBER Working Papers 26502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Daniel Klasik & Kristin Blagg & Zachary Pekor, 2018. "Out of the Education Desert: How Limited Local College Options are Associated with Inequity in Postsecondary Opportunities," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(9), pages 1-26, September.
    6. Suqin Ge & Elliott Isaac & Amalia Miller, 2018. "Elite Schools and Opting In: Effects of College Selectivity on Career and Family Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 25315, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Montoya, Ana Maria & Noton, Carlos & Solis, Alex, 2018. "The Returns to College Choice: Loans, Scholarships and Labor Outcomes," Working Paper Series 2018:12, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    8. Ana Maria Montoya & Carlos Noton & Alex Solis, 2017. "Returns to Higher Education: Vocational Education vs College," Documentos de Trabajo 334, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
    9. Hemelt, Steven W. & Schwartz, Nathaniel L. & Dynarski, Susan, 2019. "Dual-Credit Courses and the Road to College: Experimental Evidence from Tennessee," IZA Discussion Papers 12481, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    10. Ribas, Rafael P. & Sampaio, Breno & Trevisan, Giuseppe, 2020. "Short- and long-term effects of class assignment: Evidence from a flagship university in Brazil," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(C).

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