Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Chapter 1 evaluates two policy counterfactuals designed to promote access to community colleges: tuition subsidies for community college students and easier transition from two- to four-year colleges. I estimate a structural model of employment and college choices, including two-year colleges that provide post-secondary education at a lower cost and an opportunity to transfer to four-year colleges. First, I find that full tuition subsidies at two-year colleges increase the number of students initially enrolled in two-year colleges by 72.1 percent, and mostly attract students who would have not attended college otherwise. This increase in two-year college enrollment translates into an increase of $20,812 in the present value of lifetime income, which is larger than the average cost of $12,550. However, this does not translate into an increase in the number of transfers and four-year college degrees completed. Second, when two-year colleges provide better preparation for students for their transition to four-year institutions, I find that the number of students initially enrolled in two-year colleges increases by 19 percent, the transfer rate increases by 27.5 percent, and the completion rate at four-year colleges increases by 3.1 percent. The average present discounted value of lifetime income also increases by $16,589.

Chapter 2 investigates the effect of the quality of public schools on students’ enrollment decisions and their academic achievements in college. I use the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 to create a measure of the quality of high schools by taking the average of the standardized test scores of students in each school. I estimate a model of college enrollment and continuation choices in which the quality of high schools could affect students' educational outcomes. I find that the quality of high schools has a positive effect on the probability of receiving a high SAT score and the probability of being admitted to high-quality colleges. The counterfactual results show that centralizing public education results in a higher college enrollment rate of students from low-quality school districts. When a policy imposes a lower bound for high school quality, I find that college enrollment increases by 9.1 percent and college completion increases by 7.8 percent for students attending the lowest quality quartile schools. Lastly, a 10 percent increase in the ability of students from the lowest 25th percentile quality schools increases enrollment and completion by 59.5 percent and 33.3 percent, respectively. The counterfactual results suggest that improvement in the quality of public schools has a modest effect on college enrollment and completion compared to a direct increase in the ability of the students.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Juan Pantano, George-Levi Gayle

Committee Members

Ian Fillmore, Limor Golan, Carl Sanders


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Economics Commons