The Determinants of Mismatch Between Students and Colleges

Eleanor Wiske Dillon, Jeffrey Andrew Smith

NBER Working Paper No. 19286
Issued in August 2013
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS

We use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort to examine mismatch between student ability and college quality. Mismatch has implications for the design of state higher education systems and for student aid policy. The data indicate substantial amounts of both undermatch (high ability students at low quality colleges) and overmatch (low ability students at high quality colleges). Student application and enrollment decisions, rather than college admission decisions, drive most mismatch. Financial constraints, information, and the public college options facing each student all affect the probability of mismatch. More informed students attend higher quality colleges, even when doing so involves overmatching.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19286

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