ITP | The Importance of Local Options in College Choice: Evidence from Community College Openings

November 11, 2022, Noon-1:30 pm Central Time

259 Educational Sciences and Zoom

Lois Miller, PhD student in Economics

UW−Madison

Lois Miller, PhD student in Economics

Many students attend colleges close to their homes. How important is the proximity of colleges in students’ enrollment choices? In this paper, I explore this question using administrative data on the universe of public high school students in Texas matched to all within-state college enrollment at public 2-year and 4-year colleges. I use an event study analysis around the openings of community colleges to estimate the causal effect of the availability of a 2-year college within 20 minutes driving time of students’ high schools. I find that local students do enroll in the new community colleges, but this enrollment response is primarily substitution away from other colleges rather than the effect of enrollments from new students who otherwise wouldn’t have enrolled in any college. I also find suggestive evidence that students who gain access to a local community college are more likely to complete 2-year degrees. I discuss potential mechanisms and policy implications from these results.

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