NEPC Review: The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City (August 2012)
This report examines college enrollment rates of students participating in an experimental New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program, which in the spring of 1997 offered 3-year scholarships worth up to $1,400 annually to low-income families. The study identifies no overall impacts of the voucher offer, but the authors report and emphasize large positive impacts for African American students, including increases in college attendance, full-time enrollment, and attendance at private, selective institutions of higher education. This strong focus on positive impacts for a single subgroup of students is not warranted. There are no statistically significant differences in the estimated impact for African-Americans as compared to other students; there is important but unmentioned measurement error in the dependent variables (college attendance outcomes) affecting the precision of those estimates and likely moving at least some of them out of the realm of statistical significance; the authors fail to demonstrate any estimated negative effects that could help explain the average null results; and there are previously existing differences between the African-American treatment and control groups on factors known to matter for college attendance (e.g., parental education). Contrary to the report’s claim, the evidence presented suggests that in this New York City program, school vouchers did not improve college enrollment rates among all students or even among a selected subgroup of students.