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

41 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2009 Last revised: 30 Jun 2010

See all articles by Eric Bettinger

Eric Bettinger

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Bridget Long

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Philip Oreopoulos

University of Toronto - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)

Lisa Sanbonmatsu

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 2009

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

Bettinger, Eric and Long, Bridget and Oreopoulos, Philip and Sanbonmatsu, Lisa, The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block Fafsa Experiment (September 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15361. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1478310

Eric Bettinger (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Economics ( email )

266 Peter B. Lewis Building
11119 Bellflower Road
Cleveland, OH 44106
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Bridget Long

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education ( email )

6 Appian Way
Gutman Library 465
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Philip Oreopoulos

University of Toronto - Department of Economics ( email )

150 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G7
Canada

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)

180 Dundas Street West, Suite 1400
Toronto, Ontario
Canada

Lisa Sanbonmatsu

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
80
Abstract Views
597
rank
311,994
PlumX Metrics