Choice Schools Boost College Enrollment for African American Students 24 Percent

MacIver News Service | April 17, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] African American students who took advantage of a school choice program during elementary and high school were 24 percent more likely to enroll in college.

A recent report published by Education Next studied college enrollment of New York City students who participated in a school voucher lottery and used the voucher to attend a private school. Matthew Chingos, of the Brookings Institution, and Paul Peterson, of Harvard University, conducted the study.

According to a release from Education Next, this is “the first-ever experimental study of the long-term outcomes of school voucher programs.”

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“We find that the offer of a voucher increased college enrollment within three years of the student’s expected graduation from high school by 0.7 percentage points, an insignificant impact,” wrote Peterson and Chingos, “This finding, however, masks substantial variation in impacts among students from different ethnic groups. We find evidence of large, statistically significant impacts on African Americans, but fairly small and statistically insignificant impacts on Hispanic students.”

The study found that 36 percent of African American students who attended public schools and did not participate in the voucher program enrolled in college within three years of their expected high school graduation. 45 percent of African American students that received a voucher through the New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation and attended a private school enrolled in college in the same time frame.

While the study found a dramatic increase in college enrollment for African American students who participated in the choice program, it did not find such data for Hispanic students. College enrollment increased from 45 percent to 47 percent when Hispanic students utilized a voucher to attend a private school.

The authors compared the study to other items that also impact college enrollment including reductions in class size and the exposure of a highly effective teacher. Reducing class sizes increased college enrollment rates for African American students by 19 percent but cost nearly 3 times as much per student, according to a study on Tennessee schools conducted by Susan Dynarski.

Another study, by Raj Chetty, found that exposing African American students to a highly effective teacher only increased college enrollment by 3.75 percent, much lower than the 24 percent increase for African American students who participate in a school choice program.

An analysis of the study, “The Impact of School Vouchers on College Enrollment,” will appear in the summer issue of Education Next.