Year of Publication

2016

College

Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Committee Chair

Dr. Eugenia Toma

Executive Summary

For the past 100 years, policy analysts studied college enrollment at the individual level. Yet little research has been performed on whether the surrounding community characteristics contribute to enrollment rates. This is in part due to seeing college attendance as an individual choice whereas K-12 enrollment is typically predetermined by place of residence. However, this ignores the potential impact economic and social characteristics a community has on students while growing up. This paper attempts to add to the literature by testing county level variables with a panel regression with high school fixed effects.

The results show higher averages of KEES (Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship) money and eligibility for free or reduced lunch among graduates are the most significant determinants of college enrollment in this study. County variables were mostly insignificant. An exception to this was crime rates for counties with urban clusters, though the coefficient was small. Another was the percentage of college educated adults which was very large, but only when the percentage of graduates enrolled in community colleges was the dependent variable.

My recommendation is twofold. First, policy makers should consider ways to compensate for the effects of student poverty among graduates by exploring the possibility of creating after school tutoring programs. Second, analysts ought to conduct similar studies which compensate for some of the weaknesses of my model by using individual student data, an instrument variable for endogeneity caused by parents, and use variables which measure factors in a smaller community setting.

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