Date of Graduation

7-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Education Reform

Advisor

Gema Zamarro

Committee Member

Jay P. Greene

Second Committee Member

Patrick J. Wolf

Abstract

Cash transfers, defined as direct transfers of purchasing power from an institution or individual to another individual, are an increasingly popular policy instrument both abroad and in the United States. This dissertation investigates how two educational interventions utilizing cash transfers affect participating students. The first, the Louisiana Scholarship Program, is a statewide program offering publicly financed scholarships for low income students attending poorly performing public schools to attend K-12 private schools. The second program, the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship, is a state financed broad-based merit-aid scholarship for students in college within the state of Arkansas. In general, the results presented in this dissertation suggest that students using LSP scholarships performed significantly behind their counterparts in math and English Language Arts after one year, but did not differ substantially from student who did not receive a scholarship on measures of non-cognitive skills or political tolerance. In addition, the findings presented here suggest that currently enrolled students who barely qualified for an Academic Challenge Scholarship performed no differently after one year than students who barely missed the academic requirements, but earned significantly lower final GPAs and were less likely to graduate within four years. These differences disappeared after five years, suggesting that scholarship recipients may have delayed graduation in response to the program. These studies contribute to the literature on school vouchers and college merit-aid scholarships by providing the first experimental evaluation of a statewide voucher program on student achievement, the first descriptive evaluation of a voucher program on student non-cognitive skills and political tolerance, and the first examination of the effects of a merit-aid scholarship on students who were currently enrolled in college at the time of scholarship receipt.

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