Keeping College Options Open: A Field Experiment to Help All High School Seniors Through the College Application Process

57 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2016

See all articles by Philip Oreopoulos

Philip Oreopoulos

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

Reuben Ford

Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC)

Date Written: June 2016

Abstract

Recent research suggests that the college application process itself prevents access. This paper reports results from a large school-based experiment in which application assistance is incorporated into the high school curriculum for all graduating seniors at low-transition schools. Over three workshops, students were guided to pick programs of interest that they were eligible for, apply for real, and complete the financial aid application. The goal was to create a college option for exiting students to make the transition easier and more salient. On average, the program increased application rates from 64 to 78 per cent. College enrolment increased the following school year by 5.2 percentage points with virtually all of this increase in two-year community college programs. The greatest impact was for students who were not taking any university-track courses in high school: the application rate for these students increased by 24 percentage points with a nine per cent increase in two-year college enrolment. A second experiment was conducted two years later to explore several variations of the program. Offering personal assistance without waiving application fees had a negligible or even negative impact on applications and enrollment. Using laptops in homeroom classrooms instead of sending students to computer labs while combining the initial 2 workshops into one full-morning session increased application rates. However, subsequent enrollment effects were negligible. We provide some evidence consistent with the possibility that decreased guidance in choosing eligible programs was responsible for the second-experiment's decline in enrollment impacts.

Suggested Citation

Oreopoulos, Philip and Ford, Reuben, Keeping College Options Open: A Field Experiment to Help All High School Seniors Through the College Application Process (June 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22320. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2794726

Philip Oreopoulos (Contact Author)

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

Reuben Ford

Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) ( email )

55 Murray Street
Suite 400
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 5M3
Canada

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