Kirabo Jackson Finds College-Prep Incentive Programs Have Long-Term Effects

Kirabo Jackson Finds College-Prep Incentive Programs Have Long-Term Effects

Kirabo Jackson

Research by assistant professor Kirabo Jackson shows the effectiveness of incentive-based college preparatory programs for disadvantaged students. He found that a cash rewards program for high school students and teachers in inner-city schools boosted the students’ college attendance and employment.

Jackson examined the impact of the Advanced Placement Incentive Program (APIP), which included payments for passing scores on Advanced Placement exams. Students who participated in the program were more likely to attend college, earn a college degree and be employed, and they also earned higher wages.

“This is the first credible evidence that implementing college-preparatory programs in existing urban schools can improve both the long-run educational and labor market outcomes of disadvantaged students,” says Jackson.

Jackson’s research report entitled “Do College-Prep Programs Improve Long-Term Outcomes?” was released through the National Bureau of Economic Research. NBER is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization

Current trends have inspired policymakers to seek out effective college preparatory programs. In recent years, college enrollment among ethnic minority students and students from low-income families has been falling. At the same time, the economic returns to education have been rising. By 2003 college-educated adults earned 230 percent more than high school graduates, up from 75 percent in 1979. Jackson’s research has implications for federal and state expenditures on programs to increase college preparation among disadvantaged students.

APIP stands out among college preparatory program for including cash incentives for both teachers and students. These incentives are given for passing scores on AP exams, teacher training, curricular oversight and test prep sessions. Like more traditional programs, APIP also includes instruction, tutoring and counseling. APIP aims to encourage student participation and effort in AP programs.

Jackson’s study used a rigorous research design that he describes as quasi-experimental. He examined K-12 education data linked to college records and unemployment insurance records, comparing the change in outcomes between similar students at the same high school before and after APIP, and also compared to the change in outcomes for students from high schools that did not adopt APIP. He ran several tests to make sure the results were not biased by student selection, pre-existing trends, school policies or changes in leadership.

The total cost of the APIP program was approximately $450 per student for 11th and 12th grades. Looking at the long-range economic benefit in a single year, Jackson estimates a 3.7 percent boost in earnings. This would translate to a lifetime benefit of $16,650 per student. The program proved more effective with Hispanic students than with white and black students.

“While recent evidence has demonstrated that moving students out of low-performing schools and into high-performing schools can improve student outcomes, very little evidence has shown that one can improve students’ long-run outcomes by adopting a program at their existing schools,” Jackson says. His new research shows encouraging results about the efficacy of college preparatory programs for disadvantaged students at inner-city schools.

An economist with an interest in the economics of education, Jackson is a faculty member in the Human Development and Social Policy Program at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. He is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a faculty fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. His doctoral and master’s degrees in economics are from Harvard University, and his BA is from Yale University.

View the research report here.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 10/2/13