The Economic Impact of Access to Public Four-Year Colleges
We provide the first estimated economic impacts of students’ access to an entire sector of public higher education in the U.S. Approximately half of Georgia high school graduates who enroll in college do so in the state’s public four-year sector, which requires minimum SAT scores for admission. Regression discontinuity estimates show enrollment in public four-year institutions boosts students’ household income around age 30 by 20 percent, and has even larger impacts for those from low income high schools. Access to this sector has little clear impact on student loan balances or other measures of financial health. For the marginal student, enrollment in such institutions has large private returns even in the short run and positive returns to state budgets in the long run.
This paper reflects the views of the authors and not their corresponding institutions or the providers of the data. This research was supported by Arnold Ventures and a pre-analysis plan was registered on the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/) on 10/15/2019. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Michael Hurwitz is a full-time employee at the College Board.