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Spring Colloquium Series Sponsored by the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

Wednesday, February 27, 2019,

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  • Location: Vanderbilt Kennedy Center • 110 Magnolia Circle • Nashville, TN 37203
  • Room: 241

Presentation by Dr. Will Doyle

Democratization, Diversion, and Profit: The Impact of For-Profit Postsecondary Institutions on Degree Attainment and Wages

For-profit institutions of higher education promise students strong returns for their educational investment. Outcomes from these institutions, such as degree completion, typically lag those of other post-secondary institutions. For profit leaders suggest that for the students they serve, for-profits actually improve outcomes relative to other counterfactuals such as no college attendance or attendance at other open-access institutions. We use both instrumental variables and augmented inverse probability weighting to estimate the impact of for-profit attendance on degree and labor outcomes. We test whether outcomes for students at for-profit college such as certificate or degree completion or initial wages are better than outcomes for several possible counterfactual groups. We find that students who attend for-profit colleges generally fare worse than students who attend other open-access institutions. We find no evidence that students who attend for-profit colleges have better labor market outcomes than students who do not attend college.

Presentation by Dr. Adela Soliz

Can financial aid increase college persistence and completion for new and returning adult students?

Approximately 40 percent of college students are adults (i.e., age 25 or older) and 30 to 35 million adults in the United States have attended some college but have not earned a credential. Despite the large number of adults attending college, completion among this group is very low; fewer than one-half of students who initially enroll at age 25 or older complete college within six years of entry and fewer than one-third of returning adult students graduate nationally. Offering targeted need-based financial aid is one strategy states can adopt to promote adult student success. However, whether financial aid is an effective tool for incentivizing adults with some college but no degree to complete their studies remains an open question. Tennessee Hope for Nontraditional Students (THNS) is a need-based aid award designed to increase enrollment and persistence among adult students. We make use of 8 cohorts of administrative data from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and a regression discontinuity design in which Adjusted Gross Income is the forcing variable to estimate the effect of receiving THNS on the enrollment and persistence of adult students. Our findings have important implications for institutions and policy-makers designing policy to increase college enrollment and completion among new and returning adult students.