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A General Equilibrium Theory of College with Education Subsidies, In-School Labor Supply, and Borrowing Constraints

  • Mark P. Keightley

    (Congressional Research Service)

  • Carlos Garriga

    (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)

This paper analyzes the effectiveness of three different types of education policies: tuition subsidies (broad based, merit based, and flat tuition), grant subsidies (broad based and merit based), and loan limit restrictions. We develop a quantitative theory of college within the context of general equilibrium overlapping generations economy. College is modeled as a multi-period risky investment with endogenous enrollment, time-to-degree, and dropout behavior. Tuition costs can be financed using federal grants, student loans, and working while at college. We show that our model accounts for the main statistics regarding education (enrollment rate, dropout rate, and time to degree) while matching the observed aggregate wage premiums. Our model predicts that broad based tuition subsidies and grants increase college enrollment. However, due to the correlation between ability and financial resources most of these new students are from the lower end of the ability distribution and eventually dropout or take longer than average to complete college. Merit based education policies counteract this adverse selection problem but at the cost of a muted enrollment response. Our last policy experiment highlights an important interaction between the labor-supply margin and borrowing. A significant decrease in enrollment is found to occur only when borrowing constraints are severely tightened and the option to work while in school is removed. This result suggests that previous models that have ignored the student's labor supply when analyzing borrowing constraints may be insufficient.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2009 Meeting Papers with number 1180.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed009:1180
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  1. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2003. "Why the apple doesn't fall far: understanding intergenerational transmission of human capital," CeMMAP working papers CWP16/03, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  2. Michael P. Keane, 2002. "Financial Aid, Borrowing Constraints, and College Attendance: Evidence from Structural Estimates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 293-297, May.
  3. Diego Restuccia & Carlos Urrutia, 2004. "Intergenerational Persistence of Earnings: The Role of Early and College Education," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1354-1378, December.
  4. Kane, Thomas J & Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1995. "Labor-Market Returns to Two- and Four-Year College," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 600-614, June.
  5. Caucutt, Elizabeth M. & Kumar, Krishna B., 2003. "Higher education subsidies and heterogeneity: a dynamic analysis," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 1459-1502, June.
  6. Akyol, Ahmet & Athreya, Kartik, 2005. "Risky higher education and subsidies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 979-1023, June.
  7. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352.
  8. Joseph G. Altonji, 1991. "The Demand for and Return to Education When Education Outcomes are Uncertain," NBER Working Papers 3714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Comay, Yochanan & Melnik, A & Pollatschek, M A, 1973. "The Option Value of Education and the Optimal Path for Investment in Human Capital," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(2), pages 421-35, June.
  10. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  11. Keane, Michael P & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 2001. "The Effect of Parental Transfers and Borrowing Constraints on Educational Attainment," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1051-1103, November.
  12. James J. Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "General Equilibrium Treatment Effects: A Study of Tuition Policy," NBER Working Papers 6426, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1999. "The Dynamics of Educational Attainment for Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites," NBER Working Papers 7249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. R. C. Merton, 1970. "Optimum Consumption and Portfolio Rules in a Continuous-time Model," Working papers 58, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  15. Levhari, David & Weiss, Yoram, 1974. "The Effect of Risk on the Investment in Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 950-63, December.
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