The Role of Information Biases for Higher Education Enrollments Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Alessandra RUSCONI, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Germany
Claudia FINGER, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Germany
Heike SOLGA, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Germany
Nowadays in Germany many school leavers from non-academic families obtain a university entrance qualification, yet first-generation students remain underrepresented at German universities. Instead, many opt for vocational education and training. Information biases are considered an important source of social inequality in post-secondary-education transitions, even among college-eligible school leavers. We analyze if providing additional (and correct) information on the costs of and returns to higher education, as well as funding opportunities increases the likelihood of college-eligible students from non-academic background to apply to and enroll in college. We use an experimental panel design with a randomly assigned 25-minute information treatment at Berlin (academic-track) schools. Our analyses confirm that biased information about the costs of and returns to HE contributes to social inequality in post-secondary transitions. First, biased information diverts college-eligible students from non-academic background from developing college-intentions. But while our information treatment leads to a short-term (3 months after treatment) “intention upgrading”, it is not sufficient to change the application behavior of those students without initial college-intentions. Possibly the treatment took place too late in the school career (at the end of the penultimate year) when academic performance, learning motivation, and parental support cannot be quickly (and completely) revised. Second, biased information may divert also those students from non-academic background who had initial college-intentions from pursuing their plans and apply for higher education. The analyses show that our information treatment substantially increases the likelihood to apply and enroll to college directly after high school. Students with initial college-intentions from the control group (without treatment), however, partially catch up one year later. Besides differences between students with and without initial college-intentions, further analyses also reveal differences in the information treatment effect for men and women and for students with different parental educational aspirations and migration background.