Making FAFSA Mandatory: An Evaluation of Louisiana’s Financial Aid Submission Policy on College Enrollment and Pell Grant Awards
Link to paper Aiming to reduce inequalities between low- and high-income students enrolling in college, many states have proposed legislation requiring high school students to file a FAFSA application, or opt-out, prior to graduation. Louisiana was the first to implement this policy in the 2017-2018 academic year, thus potentially impacting enrollments in Fall 2018. FAFSA submissions increased significantly in Louisiana following the policy change, suggesting there may have been some follow through into post-secondary institutions. I use a synthetic control approach to estimate causal impacts of Louisiana’s FAFSA policy on college enrollment and Pell Grant awards. I find suggestive evidence that students may have substituted away from public two-year institutions towards four- year institutions. Specifically, I find marginally significant effects on enrollment for Black students at large, public four-year universities.
What can we learn from student performance? Identification in the Presence of Curves and Letter Grades (with Glen Waddell)
IZA Discussion Paper 15321 Grade-based performance measures are often relied on when considering the efficacy of education-related policy interventions. Yet, it is common for measures of student performance to be subjected to curves and discretized through letter-grade transformations. We show how transformed grades systematically challenge causal identification. Even without explicit curving, transformations to letter grade are particularly problematic and yield treatment estimates that are weighted combinations of inflated responsiveness around letter thresholds and "zeros" away from these thresholds. Curving practices can also introduce false patterns of treatment heterogeneity, attenuating measured responses to treatment among high-performing students, for example, or inflating measured responses among low-performing students.
Reading Resources and Student Achievement: Evidence from the Michigan Culture of Reading Program
This paper considers the effect of additional reading resources on third-grade student achievement by exploiting a quasi-experimental setting. In 2014, the Michigan Department of Education Culture of Reading campaign gave over 3,000 copies of a storybook, along with reading instructions, to children in 115 elementary schools and early childhood programs. I use student-level data to identify the effect of additional reading resources on third-grade English language arts (ELA) test scores.
Did the USDA Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program Improve Student Performance? Evidence from Illinois Elementary Schools
This paper examines the impact of the USDA Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program on academic
achievement, attendance, and disiciplinary actions. Using a difference-in-differences estimation
strategy with variation in treatment timing, I find suggestive evidence that FFVP participation
reduces school-level average test scores, but the magnitude of the effect cannot be distinguished
from a null effect. Further, I find no evidence of changes in attendance rates or suspensions that
can be attributed to participation in the program.