Market Power Effects of College and University Mergers (Job Market Paper)
Abstract: Non-profit colleges and universities have merged across the US, citing economies of scale and scope. Whether these institutions take advantage of merger-induced market power is an unanswered question. Using a ex post merger evaluation approach, I estimate that the average merger between 2000 and 2015 increases tuition and fees by 5-7% relative to non-merging institutions in the same state and sector. At the same time, merging institutions increase institutional grant aid which offsets price increases for students receiving financial aid. These results indicate that non-profit colleges respond to changes in market structure and use market power to increase price discrimination.
Sticker Shock and College Application and Enrollment Behavior (with Phillip Levine and Jennifer Ma)
Abstract: One of the most fundamental, but still unanswered, questions on the demand-side of higher education is whether students respond to perceived or actual prices when applying to colleges. If students exhibit ``sticker price shock'' (i.e. they rule out colleges based on the sticker price alone, ignoring the availability of financial aid), lower-income students will be less likely to apply and enroll in college, especially selective ones where they have the highest probability of graduating. Using data on SAT score sends and college enrollments and completions corresponding to students in 2006-2013, we test for sticker price shock using a triple differences approach. Our empirical strategy exploits the fact that a substantial minority of institutions guarantee that financial aid will meet full financial need for eligible entrants, meaning that low income students are fully insulated from sticker prices increases. Our estimates imply large sticker price shock effects among lower income college applicants: although sticker price hikes do not affect cost of attendance for low income students, students behave as if they do, suggesting important informational frictions.
*Draft available upon request
Better Outcomes Without Increased Costs? Effects of Georgia's Public College Consolidations
Abstract: Declining state appropriations for higher education have prompted consolidations within public university systems. Whether consolidations improve efficiency or affect college quality is unknown. I compare outcomes for cohorts enrolling just before and just after consolidation relative to cohorts at similar non-affected institutions within the University System of Georgia, a leader in the consolidations movement. The analysis reveals that consolidation increases retention rates and the fraction of students graduating on-time with four-year degrees. Spending data and conversations with administrators suggest that increased spending on academic support, made possible by economies of scale in student services, are likely responsible for the gains.
Can Federal Loan Forgiveness Help Retain Teachers?
Abstract: I study the impact of the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program which provides up to $17,500 in federal loan forgiveness for teachers completing five years at a low-income school. By providing financial incentives for teachers to stay for at least five years, this program has the potential to reduce teacher turnover at low income schools and improve student achievement since experienced teachers generate larger gains for students. Estimates from a dynamic regression discontinuity design using school-level data from four large states reveal a precise zero for the effect of the program on teacher retention rates and teacher characteristics.
Research in Progress
Pricing, Discrimination, and Access in the Private Student Loan Market (with Christa Gibbs)
Abstract: The private student loan market plays an important role in financing higher education yet has been rarely studied. We analyze student-loan level data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which covers all private student loans made by 9 major lenders from 2005 to 2011. Because our dataset of over 5 million college loans contains much richer information on underwriting criteria than has been previously available and identifies the students' school, we are able to investigate several policy-relevant questions. First, is there discrimination in the private student loan market (a practice forbidden in federal loan origination but currently legal for private student loans)? Second, what is the impact of private student loans on college completion? And third, does the use of preferred lender lists promote or lessen competition, and what is the effect on prices students pay?