Perform Better, or Else: Academic Probation, Public Praise and Students Decision-Making
30 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2018 Last revised: 21 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 1, 2018
This paper examines how college initiatives that ascribe public recognition or written reprimand to a set standard of academic performance impact students decision-making. Many colleges utilize programs such as the Dean’s list and academic probation policies as mediums to encourage student success. These policies impose a future cost on affected students, either through the loss of acquired benefits or the threat of expulsion if they fail to perform above an established standard in future semesters. To meet these standards, treated students may be induced into increasing the effort they subsequently exert. In addition, they have an incentive to manipulate their behavior along non-effort dimensions, such as through the courses and/or instructors they select. Using the regression discontinuity design, I provide convincing evidence that the students that are treated by either the Dean’s list or academic probation policy improve their academic performance in subsequent semesters. However, an increased effort may be only one of the mechanisms through which students change their behavior following treatment. In particular, there is evidence that the Dean’s list policy induces treated students to select courses and instructors that are more likely to award higher grades and have a lower failure rate. Similarly, the results suggest that the academic probation policy causes students to improve their match quality by switching majors and to employ a maximin strategy for expected grades when choosing courses. This result does not change when the probation policy becomes more restrictive by an increase in the GPA treatment threshold.
Keywords: Public Praise, Academic Probation, Effort, Course Selection, Major, GPA
JEL Classification: D84, I20, I21, I23, J01
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation