Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Tom Mroz

Second Advisor

Barry Hirsch

Third Advisor

Daniel Kreisman

Fourth Advisor

Ross Rubenstein

Abstract

This dissertation examines the impact of need-based financing policies, performance standards, and public recognition on college students' outcomes over time. Each essay utilizes novel administrative student-level data from Jamaica and a quasi-experimental econometric design to identify the causal impact of these college-level interventions on students' behavior. The general objective of this work is to provide credible evidence that can help policymakers create more effective policies to improve student success. Designing an effective framework for financing higher education is a major issue facing policymakers in developed and developing countries. While we have a good understanding of how college financing options affect college students' behavior in developed countries, less is known about the impact of these programs in developing countries. Chapter 1 examines the impact of need-based student loan and grant financing policies on students college and labor market outcomes in a developing country. The results indicate that the students affected by either program had a higher GPA, were more likely to remain in college beyond their third year, and graduated at a higher rate. While both programs induced treated students to reduce their labor market engagement during college, the estimates suggest that grant recipients earned more and loan recipients earned less than comparable students in the early years after expected graduation. Chapter 2 examines how college initiatives that ascribe public recognition or written reprimand to a set standard of academic performance impact students academic decision-making. Many colleges utilize programs such as a Dean's list and academic probation as mediums to encourage student success. These policies impose a future cost on affected students, either through the loss of acquired benefits or the threat of expulsion if they fail to perform above an established standard in future semesters. To meet these standards, treated students may be induced into exerting more effort in subsequent semesters. In addition, they have an incentive to manipulate their behavior along non-effort dimensions, such as through the type of courses and/or instructors they select. Using a regression discontinuity design, I find that the students who are treated by either the Dean’s list or academic probation policy improve their academic performance in subsequent semesters. However, increased effort may not be the only mechanisms through which students change their behavior following treatment. In particular, there is evidence that the Dean's list policy induces treated students to select courses and instructors that are more likely to award higher grades and have a lower failure rate. Similarly, the results suggest that the academic probation policy causes students to switch majors and to employ what resembles a maximin strategy for expected grades when choosing courses.

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