Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mandatory eleventh grade ACT or SAT = more students going to college

Nearly a dozen states have incorporated the ACT or SAT into their eleventh grade statewide assessment, requiring that all public school students take a college entrance exam. This paper exploits the implementation of this policy to show that for every ten poor students who take a college entrance exam pre-policy and score college-ready, there were an additional five poor students who did not take the test but would score college-ready.

The author compares changes in college-going rates pre- and post-policy among students at schools that did not have an ACT test center pre-policy to those that did, finding an increase in four-year enrollment by 0.6 percentage points or 2 percent. The effect was larger among boys (0.9 points), poor students (1.0 point), students in the poorest high schools (1.3 points), and students less likely to take a college entrance exam in the absence of the policy (1.3 points).

Although these increases in the four-year college enrollment rate might not appear to be dramatically large, relative to other educational interventions this policy is inexpensive and currently being implemented on a large scale. The direct costs to states of a mandatory ACT policy include: (1) the per-student test fee, which for spring 2012 was $32 (a $2 discount off the price a student would pay privately);32 (2) a statewide administration management fee, which is approximately $1 per student; and (3) the costs associated with trainings, meetings, and other logistical issues, which comes to less than $1 per student.33 Whereas (2) and (3) vary by state, the total cost is substantially less than $50 per student in all mandatory ACT states, especially because the actual cost to a state is the direct cost of the policy minus the cost to design, administer, and grade the portions of the eleventh grade exam displaced by the ACT.

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