Koedel, Cory. 2011. "Higher Education Structure and Education Outcomes: Evidence from the USA." Education Economics.
This paper documents substantial differences across states in their higher education (HE) structures and highlights several empirical relationships between these structures and individuals’ HE outcomes. Not surprisingly, individuals who are exposed to more-fractionalized HE structures are more likely to attend small public universities and less likely to attend large public universities. Exposure to more-fractionalized structures is also associated with increased degree attainment and increased exits from the in-state public-university system (to private and out-of-state public universities). These findings highlight potentially important tradeoffs related to state policy on HE structure.
Older (non-gated) version here.
I like this paper not because I find the causal estimation that convincing but because I think it addresses a really interesting and important topic that is rarely studied or even discussed, which is the optimal design of public state university systems. If you read the literature, there is lots of praise for Clark Kerr and the California system, but this largely has to do, I think, with the fact that he was a charismatic and well-known administrator, not because of any particular body of systemic evidence. This paper provides some descriptive evidence on the variation in fractionalization among states and attempts a causal analysis. Because the only real variation is cross-sectional (as university systems are slow-moving beasts), this is at best suggestive, but it is also all you can do. There is more to be done here along e.g. the quality dimension.
Who was my favorite student this term?
5 years ago