NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Access to Four-Year Public Colleges and Degree Completion

Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz, Jonathan Smith

NBER Working Paper No. 20996
Issued in February 2015, Revised in June 2016
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education, Labor Studies

Does access to four-year colleges affect degree completion for students who would otherwise attend two-year colleges? Admission to Georgia’s four-year public sector requires minimum SAT scores. Regression discontinuity estimates show that access to this sector increases four-year college enrollment and college quality, largely by diverting students from two-year colleges. Access substantially increases bachelor’s degree completion rates for these relatively low-skilled students. SAT retaking behavior suggests students value access to four-year public colleges, though perhaps less than they should. Our results imply that absolute college quality matters more than match quality and suggest potential unintended consequences of free community college proposals.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20996

Published: Access to 4-Year Public Colleges and Degree Completion Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz, and Jonathan Smith Journal of Labor Economics 2017 35:3, 829-867

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