Study Finds School Vouchers Boost College Enrollment for African Americans by 24%


Matthew M. Chingos Brookings Institution
Paul E. Peterson Harvard University
Janice B. Riddell (203) 912-8675, External Relations, Education Next

Study Finds School Vouchers Boost College Enrollment for African Americans by 24%

First systematic analysis of long-term results for voucher recipients tracks 99% of students in original program

CAMBRIDGE, MA—The first-ever experimental study of the long-term outcomes of school voucher programs has found that the percentage of African American students who enrolled part-time or full-time in college by 2011 was 24 percent higher for those who had won a school voucher lottery while in elementary school, and had used their voucher to attend a private school.  An analysis of the study, “The Impact of School Vouchers on College Enrollment,” will appear in the Summer issue of Education Next and is now available online at

Matthew M. Chingos of the Brookings Institution and Paul E. Peterson, Director of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, tracked college enrollment information for students who participated in the School Choice Scholarship Foundation (SCSF) program that began in 1997, matching records for these students when entering grades 1 – 5 to college enrollment information in the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC).  Of 2,666 students in the original SCSF sample, the researchers obtained information for 2,637 students, or 99% of the cohort, “greatly reducing the potential for bias due to attrition from the evaluation,” they note.

The treatment group included 1,358 students who received a voucher offer; the control group included 1,279 students who did not receive a voucher offer.  The average treatment group member used a voucher for 2.6 years.

SCSF offered three-year vouchers of $1,400 annually.  All students eligible for SCSF were socioeconomically disadvantaged; the vast majority was African American or Hispanic.  While the impact of vouchers on African American students was large, the impact of a voucher offer on the college enrollment rate of Hispanic students was found to be a statistically insignificant 2 percentage points.  Numbers of white and Asian students in the program were too small to permit reliable analysis.

Other key findings included:

• Among African Americans, 26% of those in the control group attended college full-time at some point within three years of expected high school graduation; among those in the treatment group, the voucher offer increased this rate by 7 percentage points, a 25% increment.

• Among students using the voucher to attend a private elementary school (most students attended Catholic schools), the estimated impact on full-time college enrollment was 8 percentage points, or roughly 31%.

• The offer of a voucher raised the proportion of African American students who enrolled in a private four-year college by 5 percentage points, an increase of 58% as compared to the control group.

Chingos and Peterson observe that the impact of voucher use on college enrollment for African Americans is larger than other research has found from class-size reductions, and greater than that identified from exposure to a highly effective teacher.

About the Authors

Matthew M. Chingos is a fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy.  Paul E. Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  The authors are available for interviews.

About Education Next

Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform.  Other collaborating institutions are the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, part of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.  For more information about Education Next, please visit:

For more information on the Program on Education Policy and Governance contact Antonio Wendland at 617-495-7976,, or visit

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