The Impact of School Vouchers on College Enrollment

April 26, 2013

In the late 1990s, a group of philanthropists created the New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation (SCSF), which offered three-year vouchers worth up to $1,400 annually through a lottery system and set of qualifications that determined need. A new study continues the program's rigorous assessment by evaluating the college enrollment rates of voucher recipients, say Matthew Chingos, a fellow in the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy, and Paul Peterson, a professor of government and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

  • The study tracks 2,637 SCSF scholarship applicants through the National Student Clearinghouse, which has data representing 96 percent of all college students.
  • The study finds that college enrollment increased by 0.7 percentage points when a voucher was offered, which is statistically insignificant.
  • However, when broken down by race, African American college-enrollment increased by 9 percentage points, an increase of 24 percent, when a voucher was used for a private school.

Increased African American college enrollment was found across all types of colleges, whether private, four-year or selective. Full-time college enrollment increased by 7 percentage points and an 8 percent increase in students who attended private school was observed with vouchers being offered.

  • The study found insignificant results for Hispanics with the voucher offer, presumably because Hispanics were more likely to attend college without the voucher opportunity.
  • Another reason for the disparity between African American and Hispanic college enrollment is the greater likelihood Hispanics already attended higher quality schools.
  • Students from other ethnic backgrounds were less numerous and less likely to use the voucher when it was offered to them, and were thus outside the scope of the study's results.

The study duplicates results from studies examining Washington, D.C.'s federally funded voucher program, which also found a higher impact for African American students.

Source: Matthew Chingos and Paul Peterson, "The Impact of School Vouchers on College Enrollment," Education Next, Summer 2013.

 

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