“Work to pay for school” is a common refrain. Paying for college through work earnings, however, has grown increasingly difficult due to rising college costs and stagnant wages. In this study, I examine how the relationship between college costs and student employment has changed over time. Specifically, I analyze data from four administrations of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:04, NPSAS:08; NPSAS:12; and NPSAS:16). I find that both the likelihood of employment and average weekly hours worked has declined between 2004 and 2016, never recovering from the 2008 recession. Using Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition, semiparametric reweighting, and recentered influence functions, I find that the probability of a student working while in school has become more closely related to local unemployment rates over time, and less closely associated with college price.
In general, need-based financial aid positively affects students’ academic outcomes and can reduce the amount students borrow. Evaluations of the federal Pell Grant program, however, have found mixed results. In this paper, we investigate possible explanations for often small or null effects of the Pell Grant documented in other studies using administrative data from Kentucky. We focus on whether and how (1) year-to-year changes in aid eligibility and (2) interactions with other sources of grant and loan aid attenuate the Pell Grant’s effect on students’ educational attainment. Our work complements other evaluations of the Pell Grant program that use cross-sectional variation in aid eligibility by modeling the evolution of Pell Grant eligibility over the course of a students' college enrollment. We rule out year-to-year changes in Pell eligibility as an explanation for Pell's mixed track record in past evaluations. We also find some evidence of negative impacts on borrowing, in line with other recent studies investigating student borrowing behavior.
Performance-based funding models for higher education, which tie state support for institutions to performance on student outcomes, have proliferated in recent decades. Some states have designed these policies to also address educational attainment gaps by including bonus payments for traditionally low-performing groups. Using a Synthetic Control Method research design, we examine the impact of these funding regimes on race-based completion gaps in Tennessee and Ohio. We find no evidence that performance-based funding narrowed race-based completion gaps. In fact, contrary to their intended purpose, we find that performance-based funding widened existing gaps in certificate completion in Tennessee. Across both states, the estimated impacts on associate degree outcomes are also directionally consistent with performance-based funding exacerbating racial inequities in associate degree attainment.
Students are increasingly likely to use student loans to finance their postsecondary education. This article examines how students’ use of federal loans changed from 2000 to 2016 by students’ family income group and parental education level. We use logistic regression analysis and nationally representative data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. We find that the odds of a student taking out a loan have converged over time across family income groups and across parental education levels, even after controlling for institutional sector and student demographic characteristics. Low-to-moderate-income students are now just as likely to borrow as are low-income students; likewise, continuing-generation college students are just as likely to borrow as are first- generation college students. Converging borrowing behavior across student groups has important implications for how we measure and benchmark college affordability.
Recent trends in higher education financing have increased students’ need to borrow to afford college. This brief examines how federal student loan borrowing has changed from 2000 to 2016 by student race/ethnicity using logistic regression analysis and data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS). We find that the odds of borrowing have diverged over time across racial and ethnic subgroups even after controlling for institutional sector and students’ financial circumstances. This divergence in student loan borrowing has important implications for policymakers and researchers interested in closing racial gaps in college access and success.