Making FAFSA Mandatory: An Evaluation of Louisiana’s Financial Aid Submission Policy on College Enrollment and Pell Grant Awards (Job Market Paper)
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.
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.
What can we learn from student performance? Identification in the presence of curves and letter grades (with Glen Waddell)
Grade-based performance measures are routinely relied on when considering the efficacy of policy innovation. Yet, it is common for measures of student performance to be transformed—subjected to a curve and discretized through letter-grade transformations. We show how transformed grades systematically challenge the identification of unbiased estimates of the effect of intervention. In particular, curves can 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. Even without explicit curving, transformations to letter grades can be particularly problematic, yielding estimates that are weighted combinations of (i) inflated treatment effects for students around letter-grade thresholds and (ii) “zeros” for those away from thresholds.
Works in Progress
"The Academic Impact of the USDA Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program in Illinois Elementary Schools"