Measuring the Effect of Student Loans on College Persistence
Governments around the world use grant and loan programs to ease the financial constraints that contribute to socioeconomic gaps in college completion. A growing body of research assesses the impact of grants; less is known about how loan programs affect persistence and degree completion. We use detailed administrative data from Chile to provide rigorous regression-discontinuity-based evidence on the impacts of loan eligibility for university students who retake the national admission test after their first year of studies. Those who score above a certain threshold become eligible for loans covering around 85% of tuition costs for the duration of their program. We find that access to loans increases the fraction who return to university for a second year by 20 percentage points, with two-thirds of the effect arising from a reduction in transfers to vocational colleges and one-third from a decline in the share who stop post-secondary schooling altogether. The longer-run impacts are smaller but remain highly significant, with a 12 percentage point impact on the fraction of marginally eligible retakers who complete a bachelor's degree.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27269