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Effects of Reduced Community College Tuition on College Choices and Degree Completion

Riley Acton ()

Education Finance and Policy, 2021, vol. 16, issue 3, 388-417

Abstract: Recent efforts to increase college access and completion concentrate on reducing tuition rates at community colleges, but researchers and policy makers alike have expressed concern that such reductions may not lead to long-term gains in college completion. In this paper, I use detailed data on students’ college enrollment and completion outcomes to study how community college tuition rates affect students’ outcomes across both public and private colleges. By exploiting spatial variation in tuition rates, I find that reducing tuition at a student's local community college by $1,000 increases enrollment at the college by 3.5 percentage points (18 percent) and reduces enrollment at non-local community colleges, for-profit institutions, and other private, vocationally focused colleges, by 1.9 percentage points (15 percent). This shift in enrollment choices increases students’ persistence in college, credit completion, and the probability that they transfer to and earn bachelor's degrees from four-year colleges.

Date: 2021
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