The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City

Ohio is one of the few states that currently provide publicly funded private-school vouchers. Families may be eligible through one of four programs: the Autism Scholarship Program and the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program programs for students who require a special education program; the EdChoice Scholarship Program for K-12 students in underperforming school districts throughout the state; and Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program for students in that district.

For the 2012-13 school year, Governor Kasich increased the cap for the EdChoice vouchers to 60,000 for students who would likely attend underperforming K-12 public schools. Vouchers are worth up to$4,250 or $5,000 for elementary and high school students, respectively. There is only an income-eligibility consideration if there are more applicants than funding would allow.

A joint report by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution and the Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance examines the impact of school vouchers on college enrollment rates of students who were entering grades 1 through 5 as a measure of educational attainment. A two-stage lottery was implemented to assign vouchers to the children of half of 1,000 low-income family study participants in New York City. When the students were expected to graduate high school, college enrollment rates were obtained for the participants from the National Student Clearinghouse using student identifiers.

The authors of the study find no impact of vouchers for the overall group (about half the overall group was Hispanic and the other half African-American). However, for the African-American students, vouchers did significantly increase their probability of enrolling in college. The reason, the report suggests, is that African-Americans were more at-risk to not enroll in college and were more motivated for educational reasons to pursue a voucher than their Hispanic peers.

The Ohio EdChoice and Cleveland Scholarship programs are similar to the voucher program in the New York City study. There are a few differences but both programs target students who attend underperforming public schools. Assuming that the positive results of the African-American students can be generalized to the applicants in Ohio’s voucher programs, the modest investment in a voucher can realize significant educational attainment in the future for Ohio’s children.

The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City
Matthew M. Chingos and Paul E. Peterson
The Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings
Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance
August 2012

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