Monday, January 25, 2016

The Effect on College Admissions of North Carolina's Increase in Minimum Math Course Requirements

This study explores the effects of a statewide policy change that increased the number of high school math courses required for admission to any of North Carolina’s 15 public four-year institutions. Using administrative data on cohorts of 8th grade students from 1999 to 2006, the study documents and exploits variation by district over time in the math course-taking environment encountered by students. Within an instrumental variables setup, the study examines effects of the policy change on students grouped into deciles defined by their 8th grade math test scores.

Key findings:

1. Students took more math courses in high school following the state’s announcement, with relatively larger increases in the middle and bottom deciles of students.

2. Increased math course-taking in high school led to increases in college enrollment rates that were not uniform across the 15 branch campuses.

3. The largest increases in college enrollment wer in the deciles of student achievement from which universities were already drawing the bulk of their enrollees.

4. For upper-middle decile students, there was limited and noisy evidence that increased math course-taking in high school boosts post-enrollment college performance as measured by a student’s GPA or the likelihood of majoring in a STEM field.

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