ATLANTA—Students who have access to and enroll in four-year public universities are much more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than those who do not have access and typically enroll in two-year colleges, research conducted by Georgia State University economist Jonathan Smith has found.
Now, a grant of more than $93,000 made to Georgia Policy Labs (GPL) from Arnold Ventures will allow the GPL, in new research led by Smith, to examine how access to and enrollment in Georgia’s four-year public universities impact their financial well-being.
The 12-month research project will use longitudinal data sets to follow two groups of students identified in the earlier study – those with SAT scores just above and just below minimum the SAT thresholds needed for access to the university system – beyond college and into the labor force. The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States.
“A common presumption is that for some students, particularly low-income students, a bachelor’s degree is not necessarily better than a two-year degree if they end up in a low-earning career or are unable to repay sizeable student loans,” said Maggie Reeves, senior director of Georgia Policy Labs.
“However, if receiving the four-year degree significantly improves their later-life outcomes, then we believe there are low-cost, scalable policy interventions to encourage access to these universities for those who can benefit the most.”
The Georgia Policy Labs will use several micro-level, de-identified data sources to compile a complete financial picture of students’ lives after completing their degree. GPL will distribute its analysis publicly and to its government partners, which include the University System of Georgia and five metro Atlanta school districts.
“GPL’s strategic partnerships and our experience conducting similar research set the stage for this research to result in policy change and interventions aimed at improving students’ long-term financial outcomes,” said Reeves.Georgia Policy Labs is a research unit in Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.