Recruiting and Supporting Low-Income, High-Achieving Students at Flagship Universities
We study two interventions in Texas that were designed to overcome multiple hurdles faced by low-income, high-ability college students. The Longhorn Opportunity Scholars (LOS) and Century Scholars (CS) programs recruited at specified low-income high schools, provided additional financial aid, and enhanced support services once enrolled in college if students attended University of Texas - Austin or Texas A&M - College Station, respectively. These flagship institutions are widely regarded as the top public universities in Texas. Using administrative data that links K-12, postsecondary, and earnings records for Texas public college students, we find via difference-in-differences estimates that the LOS program had a large, positive effect on high-achievers: attendance at UT-Austin increased by 2.2 percentage points (81%), and the likelihood of graduating from UT-Austin increased by 1.7 percentage points (87%). Twelve or more years post-high school, earnings of those exposed to LOS rose by 4.0%. These results entirely come from women, who saw enrollment at UT-Austin increase by 4.0 percentage points, graduation from UT-Austin increase by 2.6 percentage points and earnings increase by 6.1%. We find no evidence that the CS program affected any postsecondary or labor market outcomes. These results indicate that targeted recruitment combined with adequate supports and financial aid can substantially increase enrollment of low-income students in higher quality colleges and improve labor market outcomes. However, the differences in the LOS and CS program effects highlight the importance of understanding how to design these programs to maximize their impact on students.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22260