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

See all articles by Michael Hurwitz

Michael Hurwitz

College Board

Preeya Mbekeani

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education

Margaret Nipson

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education

Lindsay C. Page

University of Pittsburgh School of Education

Date Written: January 31, 2016

Abstract

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

Hurwitz, Michael and Mbekeani, Preeya and Nipson, Margaret and Page, Lindsay C., Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success (January 31, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2725693 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2725693

Michael Hurwitz

College Board ( email )

1919 M Street NW
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Preeya Mbekeani

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education ( email )

6 Appian Way
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Margaret Nipson

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education ( email )

6 Appian Way
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Lindsay C. Page (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh School of Education ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-7166 (Phone)

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