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JPAM Featured Article: "College Enrollment and Completion Among Nationally Recognized High-Achieving Hispanic Students"

November 9, 2016 08:00 AM

As part of our ongoing effort to promote JPAM authors to the APPAM membership and the public policy world at large, we are asking JPAM authors to answer a few questions to promote their research article on the APPAM website.

By: Oded Gurantz, Michael Hurwitz, and Jonathan Smith

What was the genesis/history of the idea for your research?

We are interested in improving college access and completion for traditionally underrepresented students. The National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP) is a long-standing College Board initiative, and we felt it was worth the effort to examine whether it was having any effects on the students it intended to serve. We also knew that students earned NHRP recognition by scoring sufficiently high on their 11th grade PSAT exam, and this eligibility threshold would allow us to rigorously evaluate the program’s impacts. 

What is the main conclusion that becomes evident from your research? (Or, what is our main takeaway?)

Our first takeaway is that the college outcomes of high-performing Hispanic students are significantly different than academically equivalent white students. Hispanic students were more likely to attend two-year or in-state institutions, though on average attended institutions on similar academic quality. Unfortunately, their bachelor degree completion rates were significantly lower than their white peers.

When examining the impact of NHRP, we found very large shifts in Hispanic students’ college decisions. Primarily, the program induced students to attend out-of-state, public flagships, which is a postsecondary sector where Hispanic attendance has traditionally lagged. For the students whose background suggested they were most at risk – students with lower SAT scores, less-educated parents, and who came from more rural and heavily Hispanic high schools – we found evidence that the program increased bachelor degree completion rates. 

What are some of the more interesting or surprising findings/conclusions, you discovered during this process?

Although we expected changes in the college attendance decisions of high-performing Hispanic students, they did occur not for the reasons we assumed. We initially thought that providing these students with a signal of their academic ability would alter their academic trajectories in high school. For the most part, we did not see strong evidence this occurred. Rather, the biggest changes came from traditional college outreach behaviors to these Hispanic students, and the large financial aid packages offered by these colleges to NHRP scholars. As a result of this outreach, Hispanic students attended college farther from home, and did not experience any declines in the likelihood of degree completion.  


Authors' Bio

oded_gurantzOded Gurantz (@odedgurantz) is an Institute of Education Sciences Fellow in the Stanford Graduate School of Education. He will complete his Ph.D. in Educational Policy in 2017, after earning an M.S. in Applied Economics and Finance from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on gaps in college enrollment and completion between students from historically under-served groups and their more privileged peers. With a background in economics and education policy, he investigates these issues using quantitative research methods, with a focus on quasi-experimental and experimental designs.


michael_hurwitzMichael Hurwitz is a senior director of policy research at the College Board. His research focuses on college access and completion.






jonathan_smithJonathan Smith (@jonisaacsmith) is an assistant professor at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and also a research scientist at the College Board. His research focuses on the behavioral and institutional factors that determine how students transition from high school to college and the consequences of those decisions. Smith received his Ph.D. in economics from Boston University and a BA in economics from Tufts University.



Check out this and other Journal of Policy Analysis and Management articles online.


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