The Promise of Place-Based Investment in College Access and Success: Investigating the Impact of the Pittsburgh Promise
55 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 15, 2017
Place-based promise scholarships are a relatively recent innovation in the space of college access and success. Although evidence on the impact of some of the earliest place-based scholarships has begun to emerge, the rapid proliferation of promise programs largely has preceded empirical evidence of their impact. We utilize regression discontinuity and difference-in-differences analyses to investigate the causal effect of the Pittsburgh Promise on students’ immediate postsecondary attainment and early college persistence outcomes. Both analytic approaches yield similar conclusions. As a result of Promise eligibility, Pittsburgh Public School graduates are approximately 5 percentage points more likely to enroll in college, particularly four-year institutions; 10 percentage points more likely to select a Pennsylvania institution; and 4 to 7 percentage points more likely to enroll and persist into a second year of postsecondary education. Impacts vary with changes over time in the program structure and opportunities and are larger for those responsive to the Promise opportunity, as instrumental variable-adjusted results reveal. Although the Pittsburgh Promise represents a sizeable investment, conservative cost-benefit calculations indicate positive returns. Even with positive economic returns, an important question is whether locally funded programs such as the Pittsburgh Promise are economically sustainable in the long run.
Keywords: Pittsburgh Promise, place-based scholarship, college access and persistence, quasi-experimental design
JEL Classification: I20, I21, I22, I23, I24, I25
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