IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/15361.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment

Author

Listed:
  • Eric P. Bettinger
  • Bridget Terry Long
  • Philip Oreopoulos
  • Lisa Sanbonmatsu

Abstract

Growing concerns about low awareness and take-up rates for government support programs like college financial aid have spurred calls to simplify the application process and enhance visibility. This project examines the effects of two experimental treatments designed to test of the importance of simplification and information using a random assignment research design. H&R Block tax professionals helped low- to moderate-income families complete the FAFSA, the federal application for financial aid. Families were then given an estimate of their eligibility for government aid as well as information about local postsecondary options. A second randomly-chosen group of individuals received only personalized aid eligibility information but did not receive help completing the FAFSA. Comparing the outcomes of participants in the treatment groups to a control group using multiple sources of administrative data, the analysis suggests that individuals who received assistance with the FAFSA and information about aid were substantially more likely to submit the aid application, enroll in college the following fall, and receive more financial aid. These results suggest that simplification and providing information could be effective ways to improve college access. However, only providing aid eligibility information without also giving assistance with the form had no significant effect on FAFSA submission rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long & Philip Oreopoulos & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2009. "The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment," NBER Working Papers 15361, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15361
    Note: ED LS
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15361.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    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;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(3), pages 629-662, September.
    2. Neil S. Seftor & NSarah E. Turner, 2002. "Back to School: Federal Student Aid Policy and Adult College Enrollment," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(2), pages 336-352.
    3. Terry Long, B.Bridget, 2004. "How have college decisions changed over time? An application of the conditional logistic choice model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 271-296.
    4. Janet Currie, 2004. "The Take Up of Social Benefits," NBER Working Papers 10488, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Christopher Avery & Caroline Minter Hoxby, 2004. "Do and Should Financial Aid Packages Affect Students' College Choices?," NBER Chapters, in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 239-302, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. 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;National Tax Journal, vol. 59(2), pages 319-356, June.
    7. 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.
    8. repec:mpr:mprres:3250 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Justine S. Hastings & Jeffrey M. Weinstein, 2008. "Information, School Choice, and Academic Achievement: Evidence from Two Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(4), pages 1373-1414.
    10. Christopher Cornwell & David B. Mustard & Deepa J. Sridhar, 2006. "The Enrollment Effects of Merit-Based Financial Aid: Evidence from Georgia's HOPE Program," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 761-786, October.
    11. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 167-195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. Christopher Avery & Thomas J. Kane, 2004. "Student Perceptions of College Opportunities. The Boston COACH Program," NBER Chapters, in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 355-394, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2013. "Simplification and saving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 130-145.
    16. 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, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 2004. "Introduction to "College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It"," NBER Chapters, in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 1-12, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. David Deming & Susan Dynarski, 2009. "Into College, Out of Poverty? Policies to Increase the Postsecondary Attainment of the Poor," NBER Working Papers 15387, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Scott Carrell & Bruce Sacerdote, 2017. "Why Do College-Going Interventions Work?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 124-151, July.
    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. Bednar, Steven & Gicheva, Dora, 2013. "Tax benefits for graduate education: Incentives for whom?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 181-197.
    5. Susan Dynarski, 2008. "Building the Stock of College-Educated Labor," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(3), pages 576-610.
    6. 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.
    7. Lindsay C. Page & Judith Scott-Clayton, 2015. "Improving College Access in the United States: Barriers and Policy Responses," NBER Working Papers 21781, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. 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.
    9. David Deming & Susan Dynarski, 2010. "College Aid," NBER Chapters, in: Targeting Investments in Children: Fighting Poverty When Resources Are Limited, pages 283-302, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Goodman, Joshua, 2008. "Who merits financial aid?: Massachusetts' Adams Scholarship," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2121-2131, October.
    11. Judith Scott-Clayton, 2012. "Information Constraints and Financial Aid Policy," NBER Working Papers 17811, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. 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.
    13. Bridget Terry Long, 2010. "Beyond Admissions: Reflections and Future Considerations," The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, , vol. 627(1), pages 216-225, January.
    14. 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;National Tax Journal, vol. 59(2), pages 319-356, June.
    15. Brigitte C. Madrian, 2014. "Applying Insights from Behavioral Economics to Policy Design," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 663-688, August.
    16. Gabrielle Fack & Julien Grenet, 2015. "Improving College Access and Success for Low-Income Students: Evidence from a Large Need-Based Grant Program," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 1-34, April.
    17. Lovenheim, Michael F. & Owens, Emily G., 2014. "Does federal financial aid affect college enrollment? Evidence from drug offenders and the Higher Education Act of 1998," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 1-13.
    18. Eric Bettinger & Oded Gurantz & Laura Kawano & Bruce Sacerdote, 2016. "The Long Run Impacts of Merit Aid: Evidence from California’s Cal Grant," NBER Working Papers 22347, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Michael S. Kofoed, 2017. "To Apply or Not to Apply: FAFSA Completion and Financial Aid Gaps," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 58(1), pages 1-39, February.
    20. Elsayed, Mahmoud A.A., 2016. "The Impact of Education Tax Benefits on College Completion," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 16-30.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15361. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.