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

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua Angrist & Daniel Lang & Philip Oreopoulos, 2006. "Lead Them to Water and Pay Them to Drink: An Experiment with Services and Incentives for College Achievement," NBER Working Papers 12790, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12790
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Pietro Garibaldi & Francesco Giavazzi & Andrea Ichino & Enrico Rettore, 2012. "College Cost and Time to Complete a Degree: Evidence from Tuition Discontinuities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(3), pages 699-711, August.
    2. 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.
    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 136-163, January.
    4. Amanda Pallais, 2009. "Taking a Chance on College: Is the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship Program a Winner?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(1).
    5. Kevin Milligan & Mark Stabile, 2011. "Do Child Tax Benefits Affect the Well-Being of Children? Evidence from Canadian Child Benefit Expansions," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 175-205, August.
    6. Louis-Philippe Morin, 2010. "Estimating the Benefit of High School for College-Bound Students," Working Papers 1002E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
    7. 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.
    8. Díez-Amigo, Sandro, 2014. "The Impact of College Peers on Academic Performance: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Chile," MPRA Paper 62913, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 Aug 2014.
    9. 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.
    10. Roland G. Fryer, Jr & Tanaya Devi & Richard T. Holden, 2012. "Vertical versus Horizontal Incentives in Education: Evidence from Randomized Trials," NBER Working Papers 17752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Díez-Amigo, Sandro, 2014. "Improving the Access to Higher Education for the Poor: Lessons from a Special Admission Program in Chile," MPRA Paper 62915, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 Aug 2014.
    12. Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2010. "Financial Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from Randomized Trials," NBER Working Papers 15898, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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