Working Papers

The Impacts of Student Loan Debt on College and Early-Career Decisions  (Job Market Paper)
Draft Version

The paper provides new evidence on the effects of student loans on college and early-career decisions for low-income students.  My empirical strategy relies on variation in student loans created by aspects of the financial aid policy at the University of Virginia (UVa).  Prior to 2014, UVa’s financial aid policy included an income threshold to determine whether students received approximately $5,000/year as a grant or a loan. I use the income threshold to employ a regression discontinuity (RD) approach. Moreover, a policy change in 2014 replaced approximately $3,500/year of grant aid with loans for low-income students. I use the policy change to employ difference-in-differences (DD) approach.  I find that student loans did not impact who enrolled at UVa or subsequent academic performance, such as GPA, or degree completion.  Higher student loan levels, however, increased the share of students majoring in business or economics by 6 percentage points and increased the share of students who accepted a job in a high-paying industry by 9 percentage points.  There is suggestive evidence that student loans decreased the likelihood of students immediately attending graduate school after college.  My findings show that debt leads students to alter their career path before reaching the labor market.

Do Colleges Respond to Incentives to Enroll ‘At-Risk’ Students? Evidence from a State Higher Education Accountability Policy
Extended Abstract

Cash for College Apps: The Effects of Conditional Cash Transfers on Selective-College Enrollment (with Benjamin Castleman)
Draft Version

Prior research demonstrates that input-based financial incentives positively affect student behaviors and educational achievement. We investigate—through a large-scale randomized controlled trial with a national sample of students—whether a conditional cash transfer encouraging low-income, high-achieving students to apply to high-quality colleges increases enrollment at high-quality institutions. We randomized students to receive: 1) a customized list of high-quality colleges in their state; or 2) the list of schools and an offer of $100 per application submitted to up to four schools from their list.  We find that the incentive offer increased the likelihood that students applied to and committed to attend a school on their list by 5.4 and 2.8 percentage points, respectively.  This increase in commitment to high-quality schools on students’ lists reduced the share of students who committed to attending a lower-quality college. These results suggest that leveraging conditional cash transfers at high leverage decisions points—such as when students are choosing which colleges to apply to—could be an efficient use of resources to reduce socioeconomic disparities in the quality of higher education institution students attend.  


Nudging Students beyond FAFSA: The Impact of University Outreach on Financial Aid Behaviors and Outcomes (with Benjamin Castleman, Katharine Meyer, Doug Hartog, and Scott Miller), 2017, Journal of Student Financial Aid, 47(3).


Works in Progress

Saved by Breakfast after the Bell? Experimental Evidence of the Effects of Social Norms on School Breakfast Investments
(with Benjamin Castleman) 

The Effect of Virtual Advising on College Choice: Evidence from a National Field Experiment
(with Eric Bettinger and Benjamin Castleman)

Advisor Quality and College Enrollment: Evidence from CollegePoint Virtual Advising
(with Benjamin Castleman) 

Getting out the Vote: Experimental Evidence on Strategies to Increase Voter Turnout
(with Benjamin Castleman)