Press Coverage: Stateline
ABSTRACT: Colleges and universities across the US have merged to cut spending, citing economies of scale and scope. However, these mergers may also facilitate market power, increasing costs for students. Using a national panel of public and private non-profit institutions, I characterize mergers between 2001 and 2013 involving public and private non-profit institutions and find that the average merger increases tuition and fees by 7% relative to non-merging institutions in the same state. Price effects are largest for mergers involving institutions with many of the same degree programs pre-merger and those operating in the same commuting zones. I investigate and rule out three alternative explanations for price increases: higher costs, higher quality, and new degree offerings. The evidence is consistent with broad exercise of market power in higher education.
ABSTRACT: Several university systems have consolidated to provide higher education more efficiently, but the effects of these consolidations on educational quality are unknown. I investigate recent consolidations affecting over 10,000 students per year within the University System of Georgia using detailed administrative data to assess impacts on student persistence, one measure of educational quality. I document that student persistence improves for cohorts who matriculate post-consolidation relative to cohorts at similar non-consolidated institutions. These effects are statistically and economically significant both for students with low and high ex-ante predicted persistence. I find that merged institutions achieved these gains without significantly higher spending per student, suggestive of productivity improvements.
ABSTRACT: Despite the prevalence of learning communities at colleges and universities, little is known about their impacts. I study a freshman learning community at MIT called the Experimental Study Group using an empirical strategy that exploits the lottery-based admissions process. I find no statistically significant effects on academic outcomes for ESG enrollees generally, but there is evidence that ESG increases GPAs and credits completed for female participants. Though female students earn higher grades when courses are taught by female instructors at MIT, the higher proportion of female instructors in ESG cannot fully explain the effects for female students.
ABSTRACT: I study the impacts of faculty unionization within US higher education, focusing on bargaining units covering part-time non-tenure track faculty (adjuncts), full-time non-tenure track faculty (instructors), and full-time tenure track faculty (assistant, associate, and full professors). By exploiting variation in the timing of collective bargaining agreement ratification, I estimate effects on university spending for wages and benefits and teaching and research production. My estimates indicate that unions do not impact compensation. I also find that neither student retention rates nor student ratings of teaching quality respond to faculty unionization, which suggests that teaching productivity is unaffected. Estimates for student earnings and research output are less precise but also suggest no significant impacts.
Research in Progress
"Effects of Graduate Student Labor Unions on PhD Production, Research, and Undergraduate Teaching"