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Do and Should Financial Aid Packages Affect Students' College Choices?

In: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It

  • Christopher Avery
  • Caroline Minter Hoxby

Every year, thousands of high school seniors with high college aptitude face complicated menus' of scholarship and aid packages designed to affect their college choices. Using an original survey designed for this paper, we investigate whether students respond to their menus' like rational human capital investors. Whether they make the investments efficiently is important not only because they are the equivalent of the Fortune 500' for human capital, but also because they are likely to be the most analytic and long-sighted student investors. We find that the typical high aptitude student chooses his college and responds to aid in a manner that is broadly consistent with rational investment. However, we also find some serious anomalies: excessive response to loans and work-study, strong response to superficial aspects of a grant (such as whether it has a name), and response to a grant's share of college costs rather than its amount. Approximately 30 percent of high aptitude students respond to aid in a way that apparently reduces their lifetime present value. While both a lack of sophistication/information and credit constraints can explain the behavior of this 30 percent of students, the weight of the evidence favors a lack of sophistication.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Caroline M. Hoxby, 2004. "College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number hoxb04-1, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10102.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10102
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. George R. Parsons & GAndrew J. Plantinga & GKevin J. Boyle, 2000. "Narrow Choice Sets in a Random Utility Model of Recreation Demand," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 76(1), pages 86-99.
    2. Dominic J. Brewer & Eric Eide & Ronald G. Ehrenberg, 1996. "Does It Pay To Attend An Elite Private College? Cross Cohort Evidence on the Effects of College Quality on Earnings," NBER Working Papers 5613, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    4. Dominic J. Brewer & Eric R. Eide & Ronald G. Ehrenberg, 1999. "Does It Pay to Attend an Elite Private College? Cross-Cohort Evidence on the Effects of College Type on Earnings," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(1), pages 104-123.
    5. D. McFadden & J. Hausman, 1981. "Specification Tests for the Multinominal Logit Model," Working papers 292, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    6. Caroline M. Hoxby & Bridget Terry, 1999. "Explaining Rising Income and wage Inequality Among the College Educated," NBER Working Papers 6873, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Robert L. Hicks & Ivar E. Strand, 2000. "The Extent of Information: Its Relevance for Random Utility Models," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 76(3), pages 374-385.
    8. McFadden, Daniel, 1987. "Regression-based specification tests for the multinomial logit model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 63-82.
    9. Bridget Terry Long, 2003. "The Impact of Federal Tax Credits for Higher Education Expenses," NBER Working Papers 9553, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Haab, Timothy C. & Hicks, Robert L., 1997. "Accounting for Choice Set Endogeneity in Random Utility Models of Recreation Demand," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 127-147, October.
    11. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Daniel R. Sherman, 1984. "Optimal Financial Aid Policies for a Selective University," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(2), pages 202-230.
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