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Promise Programs, postsecondary outcomes, difference-in-difference


The El Dorado Promise is a universal “first dollar” Promise program that guarantees a full tuition scholarship to all students who attend the El Dorado School District from grades K-12, and a partial scholarship for those who enroll in for at least 9th-12th grade. While prior research on Promise Programs has found that Promise scholarships increase postsecondary matriculation, few studies have examined the impact of a Promise scholarship on college completion or the differential impact of a Promise scholarship on college completion by student characteristics. We use a difference-in-differences strategy to examine the impact of the El Dorado Promise on college enrollment, AA completion, and BA completion on average and by student subgroup (students of color, white students, students with above-average GPAs, and students with below-average GPAs). We find that overall the Promise was associated with an 11.4 percentage point increase in postsecondary enrollment, no change in AA completion, and a 10.7 percentage point increase in BA completion. Students of color and students with below-average GPAs saw the biggest gains in college enrollment, while students of color and students with above-average GPAs saw the biggest gains in BA completion. These results indicate that Promise programs operating in rural areas can have a positive and significant impact on postsecondary outcomes for students, particularly students traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary institutions.