Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success
36 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2016
Date Written: January 31, 2016
A growing economics literature reveals that small and subtle policy adjustments can induce relatively large “ripple effects.” We contribute to this literature by evaluating a College Board initiative, launched in the fall of 2007, which increased the number of free official SAT score reports afforded to low-income students and changed the time horizon over which these free score sends could be used. By resetting the default number of free SAT score reports from four to eight for SAT fee-waiver recipients, the College Board hoped to increase the number of college applications submitted by these students and to improve their college match. Using a difference-in-differences analytic strategy, we show that low-income students took advantage of this policy and were roughly 10 percentage points more likely to send eight or more score reports. We find that this policy achieved its intended goal of increasing college access and that it also favorably impacted college completion rates. Specifically, we estimate that inducing a low-income student to send one more score report, on average, increased on-time college attendance by nearly 5 percentage points and five-year bachelor’s completion by slightly more than 3 percentage points. The policy impact was driven entirely by students who, based on SAT scores, were competitive candidates for admission to four-year colleges.
Keywords: college access, college completion, low-income students
JEL Classification: I21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation