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The Consequences of Merit Aid

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  • Susan Dynarski

Abstract

Since the early Nineties, 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 merit programs, such as the National Merit Scholarship, this aid requires relatively modest academic performance and provide scholarships to 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. The Georgia HOPE Scholarship, which has been found to widen racial gaps in college attendance (Dynarski, 2000) is atypical in its distributional impact, with the other state's programs tending to have a more positive effect on the college attendance rate of Blacks and Hispanics. I attribute HOPE'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.

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  • Susan Dynarski, 2002. "The Consequences of Merit Aid," NBER Working Papers 9400, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9400
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    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Thomas S. Dee & Linda A. Jackson, 1999. "Who Loses HOPE? Attrition from Georgia's College Scholarship Program," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 66(2), pages 379-390, October.
    4. 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.
    5. Thomas S. Dee & Linda A. Jackson, 1999. "Who Loses HOPE? Attrition from Georgia’s College Scholarship Program," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 66(2), pages 379-390, October.
    6. 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.
    7. 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;National Tax Journal, vol. 55(2), pages 223-238, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael K. McLendon & Laura W. Perna, 2014. "State Policies and Higher Education Attainment," The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, , vol. 655(1), pages 6-15, September.
    2. Michael Rizzo & Ronald G. Ehrenberg, 2004. "Resident and Nonresident Tuition and Enrollment at Flagship State Universities," NBER Chapters, in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 303-354, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Fitzpatrick, Maria D. & Jones, Damon, 2016. "Post-baccalaureate migration and merit-based scholarships," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 155-172.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Stephanie Riegg Cellini, 2010. "Financial aid and for-profit colleges: Does aid encourage entry?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(3), pages 526-552.
    7. Matthew Birch & Robert Rosenman, 2019. "How Much Does Merit Aid Actually Matter? Revisiting Merit Aid and College Enrollment When Some Students “Come Anyway”," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 60(6), pages 760-802, September.
    8. 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.
    9. Joshua Angrist & Eric Bettinger & Michael Kremer, 2004. "Long-term consequences of secondary school vouchers: Evidence from administrative records in colombia," Natural Field Experiments 00204, The Field Experiments Website.
    10. 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.
    11. Joshua Angrist & Eric Bettinger & Michael Kremer, 2006. "Long-Term Educational Consequences of Secondary School Vouchers: Evidence from Administrative Records in Colombia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 847-862, June.
    12. Michael K. McLendon & David A. Tandberg & Nicholas W. Hillman, 2014. "Financing College Opportunity," The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, , vol. 655(1), pages 143-162, September.
    13. Melissa Whatley, 2019. "Study Abroad Participation: An Unintended Consequence of State Merit-Aid Programs?," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 60(7), pages 905-930, November.
    14. Jones, Maggie E.C., 2023. "Post-secondary funding and the educational attainment of indigenous students," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 97(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

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

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