Michelmore study on college pricing, student choices published in American Economic Review
Jun 1, 2021
Closing the Gap: The Effect of Reducing Complexity and Uncertainty in College Pricing on the Choices of Low-Income Students
Susan Dynarski, CJ Libassi, Katherine Michelmore & Stephanie Owen
American Economic Review
"Closing the Gap: The Effect of Reducing Complexity and Uncertainty in College Pricing on the Choices of Low-Income Students," co-authored by Assistant Professor Katherine Michelmore, was published in American Economic Review. High-achieving, low-income students attend selective colleges at far lower rates than upper-income students with similar achievement. Behavioral biases, intensified by complexity and uncertainty in the admissions and aid process, may explain this gap.
In a large-scale experiment the authors tested an early commitment of free tuition at a flagship university. The intervention did not increase aid: rather, students were guaranteed before application the same grant aid that they would qualify for in expectation if admitted. The offer substantially increased application (68 percent versus 26 percent) and enrollment rates (27 percent versus 12 percent). The results suggest that uncertainty, present bias, and loss aversion loom large in students' college decisions. 06/02/21