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New Study: Vouchers Boost College Attainment

A new study from The Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings Institution reveals the positive impact that school vouchers may have on college enrollment. In 1997, a privately funded scholarship program in New York City was created for low-income families. As is typical today, demand far outweighed supply and there were 20,000 applicants for 1,300 scholarships to attend mostly Catholic, private schools.

This study used the gold standard of research by using a randomized experiment to compare students who received the voucher with those who applied but did not receive one. The data show that African-American students who received a voucher were 9 percentage points more likely to enroll in college than those students who did not receive a voucher, an increase of 24 percent. For Hispanics, impact was much less positive at 1.7 percentage points.

The variance may be explained by reasons for attending Catholic private schools. Hispanics are predominantly Catholic, so families may have chosen a Catholic school simply not because they found it more academically successful than their local public school. African-Americans in this study, generally were from an area with a lower-performing school and would not have chosen a Catholic private school if not for a voucher, so their reasons for attending were purely academic.

This study, in conjunction with recent research on the DC Opportunity Scholarship, and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, makes a strong case that are producing long-term results for students that receive them.

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