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ERIC Number: ED514887
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Jan
Pages: 36
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Filling in the Blanks: How Information Can Affect Choice in Higher Education
Kelly, Andrew P.; Schneider, Mark
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Spurred on by the Obama administration, and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, the United States has embarked on a "college completion agenda" to increase the number of American adults with postsecondary degrees. While the push to improve consumer information in the higher education market has gained momentum, whether these improvements will lead to increases in degree completion depends on the answer to a basic question: "if consumers are provided with better information on quality and costs, will they use it?" This report aims to answer this question, using an experiment embedded in a survey of parental attitudes about higher education. The authors asked a representative sample of one thousand parents of high-school-age children in five states to choose between two public colleges in their state on the basis of their own judgments and real information that they provided to them. They randomly assigned parents to a control group in which respondents were given some basic information about a pair of colleges (for example, cost and selectivity) or a treatment group that received the same profile plus the graduation rate for each institution. Overall, they found that providing graduation-rate information increased the probability that parents would choose the institution with the higher graduation rate by about 15 percentage points. Perhaps most importantly, parents with less education, lower incomes, and less knowledge of the college application process experienced large and significant information effects, while more advantaged and better-informed parents did not significantly change their preferences. These findings suggest that providing additional information about college quality could lead less-informed and lower-income parents to make decisions that are similar to those made by the savviest consumers in the market. The authors further argue that the findings illustrate why individuals need to develop the means to collect and convey an array of institutional quality measures that allow students and their families to easily distinguish colleges from one another. Providing such information to enhance market efficiency and consumer choice in higher education is a governmental objective that policymakers of all ideological stripes should agree on. An appendix is included. (Contains 11 figures, 3 tables and 26 notes.)
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. 1150 Seventeenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-862-5800; Fax: 202-862-7177; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: High Schools; Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Authoring Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research