Raising the Bar for College Admission: North Carolina's Increase in Minimum Math Course Requirements

50 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2016

See all articles by Charles T. Clotfelter

Charles T. Clotfelter

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy; Duke University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Steven W. Hemelt

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Helen F. Ladd

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy

Date Written: January 2016

Abstract

We explore the effects of a statewide policy change that increased the number of high school math courses required for admission to any of North Carolina’s 15 public four-year institutions. Using administrative data on cohorts of 8th grade students from 1999 to 2006, we document and exploit variation by district over time in the math course-taking environment encountered by students. Within an instrumental variables setup, we examine effects of the policy change on students grouped into deciles defined by their 8th grade math test scores. First, we find that students took more math courses in high school following the state’s announcement, with relatively larger increases in the middle and bottom deciles of students. Second, we conclude that increased math course-taking in high school led to increases in college enrollment rates that were not uniform across the 15 branch campuses. In particular, we observe the largest increases in the deciles of student achievement from which universities were already drawing the bulk of their enrollees. Finally, for upper-middle decile students, we find limited and noisy evidence that increased math course-taking in high school boosts post-enrollment college performance as measured by a student’s GPA or the likelihood of majoring in a STEM field.

Suggested Citation

Clotfelter, Charles T. and Hemelt, Steven W. and Ladd, Helen F., Raising the Bar for College Admission: North Carolina's Increase in Minimum Math Course Requirements (January 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w21926, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2721789

Charles T. Clotfelter (Contact Author)

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy ( email )

Box 90245
Durham, NC 27708
United States
919-613-7361 (Phone)
919-681-8288 (Fax)

Duke University - Department of Economics

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Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0204
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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Steven W. Hemelt

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill ( email )

102 Ridge Road
Chapel Hill, NC NC 27514
United States

Helen F. Ladd

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy ( email )

201 Science Drive
Box 90312
Durham, NC 27708-0239
United States
919-613-7352 (Phone)

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