The Effect of Course Shutouts on Community College Students: Evidence from Waitlist Cutoffs
One frequently cited yet understudied channel through which funding levels impact college students is course availability—colleges are often forced to respond to budgetary pressure by reducing course offerings. We provide the first causal evidence on this mechanism at a community college, using administrative course registration data and a novel research design that exploits discontinuities in course admissions created by waitlists. Community colleges enroll about half of U.S. undergraduates and over half of minority students in public colleges. The impacts of course availability in this setting may be especially salient relative to four-year colleges due to open admissions policies, binding class size constraints, and a heavy reliance on state funding. Across a range of bandwidths, we find that students stuck on a waitlist and shut out of a course section were 22 to 28 percent more likely to take zero courses that term relative to a baseline of about 10 percent. Shutouts also increased transfer rates to nearby, but potentially less-desirable two-year colleges. These results offer some evidence that course availability can disrupt community college students' educational trajectories.
We would like to thank Thomas Barrios for his critical work in the early stages of this project. We are also thankful for helpful comments from Joshua Angrist, Charlie Brown, Sue Dynarski, Ed Glaeser, Brian Jacob, Larry Katz, Amanda Pallais, Jeff Smith, Kevin Stange, Lesley Turner, and seminar participants at De Anza Community College, Harvard University, the University of Michigan, the University of California, Sacramento Center, Mathematica, the Association for Education Finance and Policy, and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. We are extremely grateful to Mallory Newell, Andrew LaManque, Bob Barr, Howard Irvin, Stephen Fletcher, Lydia Hearn, Kathleen Moberg, Jerry Rosenberg, and Rowena Tomaneng for providing administrative data and detailed information on courses, minority student programs, and registration procedures. Mallory Newell deserves special thanks for also providing detailed comments on an earlier draft of the paper. This research was funded with help from PR/Award R305B150012# by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of any other entity, nor of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Silvia Robles & Max Gross & Robert W. Fairlie, 2021. "The effect of course shutouts on community college students: Evidence from waitlist cutoffs," Journal of Public Economics, vol 199. citation courtesy of