August 25 2012

New York Voucher Program Boosts College Enrollment among African American Students

Vicki E. Alger

The college enrollment rate among African American students participating in the New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program, a privately funded voucher program, was significantly higher, according to a new study from the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings and Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance. As the authors write:

In  the  first  study  using  a  randomized  experiment  to  measure  the  impact  of  school vouchers on college enrollment, we examine the college-going behavior through 2011 of students who participated in a voucher experiment as elementary school students in the late 1990s.  We find no overall impacts on college enrollments but we do find large, statistically significant positive impacts on the college going of African American students who participated in the study. Our estimates indicate that  using  a  voucher to  attend  private  school  increased  the  overall  college  enrollment rate among African Americans by 24 percent. (p. ii)

The authors also found increases among African American students in full-time college attendance, enrollment in private and selective four-year colleges.

It is significant that voucher programs for low-income students help improve college-going rates. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the immediate college enrollment rate of high-school graduates from low-income families was 52 percent compared to 82 percent of graduates from high income families. Also, between 2003 and 2010, there were no measurable differences in the immediate college enrollment rates for White (70 percent), Black (66 percent), or Hispanic (60 percent) high school graduates.

More important than college-attendance rates are college completions rates, which depend heavily on solid academic preparation. Insofar as voucher programs help students attend rigorous schools, those rates could improve as well. Currently according to ED, six-year completion rates for first-time, full-time undergraduates seeking four-year bachelor’s degrees vary by race: 62 percent, White students; 50 percent, Hispanic students; and 39 percent each among Black and American Indian/Alaska Native students.

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