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The New Merit Aid

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  • Dynarski, Susan

    (Harvard U)

Abstract

Since the early Nineties, over a dozen states have established broad-based merit aid programs. The typical program waives tuition and fees at public colleges and universities in one’s home state. Unlike traditional, elite merit programs such as the National Merit Scholarship, the new merit aid requires relatively modest academic credentials and annually funds hundreds of thousands of students. This paper examines how merit aid programs in seven states have affected an array of schooling decisions, paying particular attention to how the effects have varied by race and ethnicity. I find that the new programs typically increase the attendance probability of college-age youth by five to seven percentage points. The merit programs also shift students toward four-year schools and away from two-year schools. Surprisingly, the Georgia HOPE Scholarship, which widened racial gaps in college attendance (Dynarski, 2000) is found to be atypical in its distributional impact. The other states’ merit aid programs have actually closed racial and ethnic gaps in attendance. I attribute the Georgia program’s unique distributional effect to its relatively stringent academic requirements and a recently-eliminated provision that channeled the most generous scholarships to higher-income students.

Suggested Citation

  • Dynarski, Susan, 2004. "The New Merit Aid," Working Paper Series rwp04-009, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp04-009
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    File URL: https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/getFile.aspx?Id=113
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    Other versions of this item:

    • Susan Dynarski, 2004. "The New Merit Aid," NBER Chapters,in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 63-100 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Dynarski, Susan, 2000. "Hope for Whom? Financial Aid for the Middle Class and Its Impact on College Attendance," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(3), pages 629-662, September.
    2. Thomas J. Kane, 1995. "Rising Public College Tuition and College Entry: How Well Do Public Subsidies Promote Access to College?," NBER Working Papers 5164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Rubenstein, Ross & Scafidi, Benjamin, 2002. "Who Pays and Who Benefits? Examining the Distributional Consequences of the Georgia Lottery for Education," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(N. 2), pages 223-238, June.
    4. Thomas J. Kane, 2003. "A Quasi-Experimental Estimate of the Impact of Financial Aid on College-Going," NBER Working Papers 9703, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Susan Dynarski, 2002. "The Behavioral and Distributional Implications of Aid for College," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 279-285, May.
    6. Susan M. Dynarski, 2003. "Does Aid Matter? Measuring the Effect of Student Aid on College Attendance and Completion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 279-288, March.
    7. Gary T. Henry & Ross Rubenstein, 2002. "Paying for grades: Impact of merit-based financial aid on educational quality," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(1), pages 93-109.
    8. Dee, Thomas S., 2004. "Are there civic returns to education?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1697-1720, August.
    9. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    10. Christopher Cornwell & David B. Mustard, 2007. "Merit-Based College Scholarships and Car Sales," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 2(2), pages 133-151, February.
    11. Rubenstein, Ross & Scafidi, Benjamin, 2002. "Who Pays and Who Benefits? Examining the Distributional Consequences of the Georgia Lottery for Education," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(2), pages 223-238, June.
    12. Christopher M. Cornwell & David B. Mustard & Deepa Sridhar, 2005. "The Enrollment Effects of Merit-Based Financial Aid: Evidence from Georgia's HOPE Scholarship," HEW 0501002, EconWPA.
    13. Kane, Thomas J, 1994. "College Entry by Blacks since 1970: The Role of College Costs, Family Background, and the Returns to Education," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 878-911, October.
    14. Thomas S. Dee & Linda A. Jackson, 1999. "Who Loses HOPE? Attrition from Georgia’s College Scholarship Program," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 379-390, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin D. Dooley & A. Abigail Payne & A. Leslie Robb, 2009. "Merit-Aid and the Distribution of Entering Students Across Ontario Universities," Department of Economics Working Papers 2009-12, McMaster University.
    2. Brian A. Jacob & Tamara Wilder, 2010. "Educational Expectations and Attainment," NBER Working Papers 15683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Susan M. Dynarski & Judith E. Scott-Clayton, 2008. "Complexity and Targeting in Federal Student Aid: A Quantitative Analysis," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 22, pages 109-150 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Joshua Angrist & Philip Oreopoulos & Tyler Williams, 2014. "When Opportunity Knocks, Who Answers?: New Evidence on College Achievement Awards," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(3), pages 572-610.
    5. Dynarski, Susan M. & Scott–Clayton, Judith E., 2006. "The Cost of Complexity in Federal Student Aid: Lessons From Optimal Tax Theory and Behavioral Economics," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, pages 319-356.
    6. Page, Lindsay C. & Scott-Clayton, Judith, 2016. "Improving college access in the United States: Barriers and policy responses," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 4-22.
    7. Susan Dynarski, 2008. "Building the Stock of College-Educated Labor," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(3), pages 576-610.
    8. Scott-Clayton, Judith & Zafar, Basit, 2016. "Financial aid, debt management, and socioeconomic outcomes: post-college effects of merit-based aid," Staff Reports 791, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    9. Waddell, Glen R. & Singell Jr., Larry D., 2011. "Do no-loan policies change the matriculation patterns of low-income students?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 203-214, April.
    10. Sjoquist, David L. & Winters, John V., 2014. "Merit aid and post-college retention in the state," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 39-50.
    11. Cowan, Benjamin W. & White, Dustin R., 2015. "The effects of merit-based financial aid on drinking in college," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 137-149.
    12. Harry J. Holzer & David Neumark, 2006. "Affirmative action: What do we know?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(2), pages 463-490.
    13. Gunnes, Trude & Kirkebøen, Lars J. & Rønning, Marte, 2013. "Financial incentives and study duration in higher education," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 1-11.
    14. Turner, Nicholas, 2012. "Who benefits from student aid? The economic incidence of tax-based federal student aid," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 463-481.
    15. Timothy G. Conley & Christopher R. Taber, 2011. "Inference with "Difference in Differences" with a Small Number of Policy Changes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 113-125, February.
    16. Monks, James, 2009. "The impact of merit-based financial aid on college enrollment: A field experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 99-106, February.
    17. Fitzpatrick, Maria D. & Jones, Damon, 2016. "Post-baccalaureate migration and merit-based scholarships," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 155-172.
    18. Turner, Nick, 2010. "Who Benefits From Student Aid? The Economic Incidence of Tax-Based Federal Student Aid," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt7g0888mj, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
    19. Goodman, Joshua, 2008. "Who merits financial aid?: Massachusetts' Adams Scholarship," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2121-2131, October.
    20. James R. Harrington & José Muñoz & Bradley R. Curs & Mark Ehlert, 2016. "Examining the Impact of a Highly Targeted State Administered Merit Aid Program on Brain Drain: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Analysis of Missouri’s Bright Flight Program," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 57(4), pages 423-447, June.
    21. Sjoquist, David L. & Winters, John V., 2013. "The effects of HOPE on post-college retention in the Georgia workforce," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 479-490.
    22. Stephan Vincent-Lancrin, 2007. "The Crisis of Public Higher Education: A Comparative Perspective," University of California at Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education qt3j77g3fx, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley.
    23. Bruce, Donald J. & Carruthers, Celeste K., 2014. "Jackpot? The impact of lottery scholarships on enrollment in Tennessee," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 30-44.
    24. Meneses, Francisco & Blanco, Christian, 2010. "Financial Aid and Higher Education Enrollment in Chile: A Government Policy Analysis," MPRA Paper 23321, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    25. Welch, Jilleah G., 2014. "HOPE for community college students: The impact of merit aid on persistence, graduation, and earnings," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 1-20.

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