Knowledge Decay between Semesters

33 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2015 Last revised: 12 Aug 2016

See all articles by Angela K. Dills

Angela K. Dills

Western Carolina University

Rey Hernández-Julián

Metropolitan State College of Denver

Kurt W. Rotthoff

Seton Hall University - W. Paul Stillman School of Business

Date Written: October 1, 2015


Summer learning loss has been widely studied in K-12 schooling, where the literature finds a range of results. This study provides the first evidence of summer learning loss in higher education. We analyze college students taking sequential courses with some students beginning the sequence in the fall semester and others in the spring. Those beginning in the fall experience a shorter break between the courses. We test whether the length of that gap explains the students’ performance in the subsequent course. Initial results suggest that a longer gap is associated with lower grades. However, including student fixed effects eliminates the observed knowledge decay with a few exceptions: knowledge decay remains for students in language courses, for students with below-median SAT Math scores, and for students with majors outside STEM fields.

JEL Classification: I21, I28

Suggested Citation

Dills, Angela K. and Hernandez-Julian, Rey and Rotthoff, Kurt W., Knowledge Decay between Semesters (October 1, 2015). Economics of Education Review, Vol. 50, 2016, Available at SSRN: or

Angela K. Dills

Western Carolina University ( email )

Cullowhee, NC 28723
United States
8282273329 (Phone)


Rey Hernandez-Julian

Metropolitan State College of Denver ( email )

Student Success Building
890 Auraria Pkwy #310
Denver, CO 80217
United States

Kurt W. Rotthoff (Contact Author)

Seton Hall University - W. Paul Stillman School of Business ( email )

400 S Orange Avenue
JH 674
South Orange, NJ 07079
United States
973-761-9102 (Phone)


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