Expanding College Access

Edward P. St. John
February 1, 2004

Executive summary ............................................................................................................... 1
Introduction .......................................................................................................................... 4
Access research ..................................................................................................................... 5
The impact of public finance strategies ....................................................................... 5
Academic preparation .................................................................................................. 6
The challenge............................................................................................................... 7
The influence of state finances on college access ................................................................. 8
Analyses of the impact of state finance strategies ...................................................... 10
Limitations ................................................................................................................. 10
Results ........................................................................................................................ 12
Coordinating state finance strategies.................................................................................. 13
Option 1: Improved state policy coordination .......................................................... 13
Option 2: A new federal-state partnership................................................................. 15
The costs and benefits of improved policy coordination ................................................... 16
Setting a minimum standard of coordination............................................................. 16
Assessing alternative strategies: Results from the simulations .................................... 17
Estimated enrollment effects ...................................................................................... 17
Conclusions and implications ............................................................................................. 22
Appendices
1. State indicators for demographic and financial variables .............................................. 25
2. The impact of state financial strategies on high school graduation rates ...................... 26
3. Ordinary least squares regressions ................................................................................. 29
References ........................................................................................................................... 31
Endnotes ............................................................................................................................. 35
Table of contents

Although substantial attention has
been given to federal strategies for
improving college access, too little
attention has been given to the
impact of state finance strategies on academic
preparation and access for prepared students. This
report provides:
? A review of prior access studies.
? A new conceptual model for assessing the
impact of state finance strategies.
? An analysis of the impact of state
finance strategies.
? Simulations of alternative state and federal
strategies.
Prior research
The early economic studies of college access
documented that student financial aid had a direct
influence on enrollment. However, the old
consensus behind this research broke down after
the net price concept used in these studies did not
adequately explain the impact of new finance
policies that influence access. In this study of the
impact of state finance strategies, we considered
the impact of tuition, need-based grants and nonneed
grants as a means of measuring the multiple
effects of state finance policies on access.
Executive summary

1
Recent research by the National Center for
Education Statistics (NCES) examined the impact
of taking a college preparatory curriculum on
college enrollment.
Although advanced
high school courses are
crucial, the definition
of preparation used by
NCES overlooked the
role of high schools in
preparing students for
community colleges,
an integral part of the
access strategy used in
many states. High school graduation serves as a
proxy for community college preparedness in this
study, which examined the impact of public
finance (K-12 funding and student financial aid) on
high school graduation rates.
A new approach
New logical models for assessing the impact of
state finance strategies on academic preparation
and financial access for prepared students were
developed. The researchers looked at these two
factors as follows:
This study
examined the impact
of public finance on
high school
graduation rates.
2
? Academic preparation: The analyses examined
the influence of demographic contexts (e.g.,
income diversity and education level in the
states), financial controls (tax rates and K-12
expenditures), and higher education finance
strategies (public sector tuition and grants
[need-based and non-need1] two years prior to
graduation) on high school graduation rates.
? Financial access: The analyses examined the
influence of demographic contexts, financial
controls, system capacity of the state system
(percent enrollment in community colleges and
private colleges), and higher education finance
strategies (public sector tuition, need-based
grants and non-need grants during the
freshman year) on college enrollment by high
school graduates.
The study developed and used a state-level
database of the 50 states for the 1992, 1994, 1996,
1998, and 2000 fiscal years. The database was
assembled from sources compiled by NCES,
National Association of State Student Grant and
Aid Programs (NASSGAP) and other sources.
Fixed-effect regressions were used to control for
state effects on academic preparation and financial
access.
The impact of state finance strategies
Academic preparation: Controlling for state
contexts and demographics, state finance strategies
(tax rates and K-12 expenditures) were not
significantly associated with high school graduation
rates. Non-need grants and public college tuition
(both measured two years prior to graduation) were
negatively and significantly associated with high school
graduation rates. Need-based grants had a positive
(non-significant2) association with high school
graduation rates in the fixed-effects analysis.
Financial access: College enrollment rates for high
school graduates were influenced by system
capacity and state financial strategies, controlling
for state contexts and demographic variables:
? The percentage of full-time equivalent
enrollment in public two-year colleges was
positively and significantly associated with
overall college enrollment rates for high
school graduates.
? The percentage of full-time equivalent
enrollment in private colleges was also
associated with higher college enrollment
rates.
? Need-based grants had a substantial,
positive influence on enrollment rates.
Need-based grants had a stronger influence
(i.e., larger standardized beta) than any
other financial variable in the model.
? Non-need grants were significant and
positively associated with college enrollment
rates by high school graduates.
Simulations of alternative strategies
These findings support arguments that states
should coordinate need-based state grants with
public sector tuition charges as a means of
promoting financial access for students who are
prepared for college. If states allow tuition to rise
due to shortfalls in tax revenues or for other
reasons, then need-based grants should be
sufficient to ensure financial access. Simulations
examine two possible strategies for expanding
access:
? Coordination of public sector tuition
and state grants. The first simulation
estimated the effects of funding state needbased
grants on a level equal (on a per-FTE
basis) to one-quarter of the public sector
tuition charge, a reasonable equity
standard. If this level of coordination had been
maintained in the 1990s, then 1.21 million more
low-income students would have had the
opportunity to enroll in college across the U.S.
3
? A new state-federal partnership. The
second simulation estimated the impact of
a new need-based grant (jointly funded by
states and the federal government) that
would have been funded at a level equaling
an additional one-quarter of each state?s
average public sector tuition charge (i.e.,
new funds on top of existing grants). Had
the proposed partnership been implemented in the
1990s, an additional 2.55 million low-income
college-prepared students would have had the
opportunity to enroll in the 1990s.
Conclusions
To maintain financial access for low-income
students, states must raise funding for need-based
grants. If the federal government does not make
any additional investment in grants, each state
should maintain funding for need-based grants at
least equal to one-quarter of the average tuition
charge.
Recommendations
The states and the federal government should
authorize and adhere to a two-tier grant strategy.
1. The basic federal need-based grant should
have a maximum award equaling the
national average for room and board charges.
2. A second-tier grant program should involve
state-federal collaboration. The program
should:| Provide a maximum need-based award
equaling public tuition (and possibly a
higher award level for private colleges).| Be funded at an amount in each state
equaling one-quarter the average public
tuition charge on an FTE basis. (The
funding should be equal to total state
enrollment multiplied by a factor
equaling one-quarter of the average
public tuition).| Be funded by one-third federal funds
and two-thirds state funds.| Require an approved plan for coordinating
state grants and tuition with other
state finance strategies for higher
education, raising state grants as tuition
increases.| Make awards based on financial need,
consistent with federal needs analyses.| Require states to provide information
about the grant program to all eighthgrade
students who receive subsidies
from the Department of Agriculture?s
Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
4
Introduction
Attaining at least some postsecondary
education ? a degree from a twoyear
or four-year college ? is
increasingly necessary for meaningful
employment (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991;
Paulsen, 2001a, 2001b). While college funding
was considered central to expanding access during
most of the 20th century, for the past two decades
the debates about policies for expanding access
have broadened to include education reform aimed
at improving academic preparation for college and
postsecondary encouragement programs (King,
1999; National Center for Education Statistics
[NCES], 1997a; Tierney & Hagedorn, 2002). As
more high school students take the steps to
prepare for college, states will need to consider
how to make efficient use of tax dollars in efforts
to expand postsecondary opportunities for lowincome
students, especially given the competing
demands on state tax dollars. Whether or not state
education reforms are successful, the concept of
equal opportunity posits that a student?s socioeconomic
background should not affect his or her
opportunity to attend college.
The Advisory Committee on Student Financial
Assistance (2002) estimated that about 4 million
college-qualified students from low- and moderate-
income families would be denied access to
four-year colleges in the first decade of the 21st
century because the remaining costs of college,
after loans and grants, are higher than these
students can afford. Given the large number of
qualified students being left behind because of
college prices, many states face an access challenge.
With the decline in the buying power of
federal need-based grants over the past two
decades, states should consider altering their
financial strategies to ensure access for lowincome,
college-qualified students. The goal of
ensuring access is complicated by the great
variability in the capacity and mix of two-year and
four-year colleges across the states as well as the
significant differences in state financial aid
programs.
The federal government and states share the
goal of expanding access for academically prepared
students. Opportunity for college enrollment has
been the intent of federal need-based grant aid for
four decades. States have the primary responsibility
for ensuring financial access, and the declining
value of federal grants (Advisory Committee for
Student Financial Assistance, 2002) adds to the
severity of the access challenge facing states. This
report examines the impact of state financing
strategies on college access in the 1990s and
proposes two cost-efficient approaches for
expanding access over the next decade.
5
There is a long history of effort to
conceptualize and measure the impact
of state and federal financing strategies
on college access; however, there is
little agreement about which methods are most
appropriate for this task. To build an understanding
of the reasons why a new approach is needed,
we review the uses of statistical models in higher
education policy research over the last half of the
twentieth century. This review considers: (1) early
efforts to assess the impact of public finance
strategies on access to higher education, (2) recent
efforts to focus on the role and influence of
academic preparation on the college merit process,
and (3) the challenge facing policy research on
college access.
The impact of public finance strategies
Economists began to study the impact of
tuition on college enrollment in the 1960s and
early 1970s (Hansen & Weisbrod, 1969; Jackson &
Weathersby, 1975; Manski & Wise, 1983;
McPherson, 1978). The early studies used both
time-series data and samples of high school
students to examine the impact of price differentials
on enrollment. Reviews of these early studies
found that higher tuition charges reduced
enrollment rates, a finding that was often used to
argue that student aid was the most efficient
possible means of promoting college access
(Jackson & Weathersby,
1975; Leslie & Brinkman,
1988; McPherson, 1978).
These early studies
informed efforts by the
National Commission on
the Financing of
Postsecondary Education
(NCFPE), which estimated
the effects of expanding
the Pell grant program on
college enrollment
(NCFPE, 1973). The
NCFPE concluded that
need-based grants for
students constituted a
more efficient means to
expand access than did
direct federal subsidies to
colleges and universities.
During the 1970s and 1980s, substantial
progress in research on public finance strategies
occurred through the development of national
longitudinal databases to study the impact of
student financial aid on college enrollment. For
example, using the National Longitudinal Study of
The NCFPE
concluded that
need-based grants
for students
constituted a more
efficient means to
expand access than
did direct federal
subsidies.
Access research

6
the High School Class of 1972 (NLS:72), Jackson
(1978) and Manski and Wise (1983) found that
student aid expanded access for students in the
high school class of 1972. Manski and Wise also
examined the impact of implementing Pell grants
and estimated that expansion of grants would
increase access to twoyear
colleges more
than four-year colleges.
Analyses of the High
School and Beyond
(HSB) study of the
high school classes of
1980 and 1982 found
that student grants
were positively
associated with
enrollment by lowincome
students in the early 1980s, as they had
been a decade earlier (Jackson, 1988; St. John,
1990, 1991; St. John & Noell, 1989).
There were also numerous attempts to develop
and refine price response measures based on
reviews of both time-series studies and studies
using national longitudinal databases (Heller,
1997; Jackson & Weathersby, 1975; Leslie &
Brinkman, 1988; McPherson, 1978). Most of these
researchers concluded that $100 in price (tuition)
differential was associated with some percentage
point change in the college enrollment rate. The
research evidence was clear on this point: Lowincome
students were more responsive to college
prices and student grants than were middle-income
students (Heller, 1997; Leslie & Brinkman, 1988).
Even so, analysts have lacked a generally accepted
method of linking indicators of public spending on
student financial aid with changes in college
enrollment.
Recent analyses that considered trends in
federal need-based and non-need grants, trends in
state grants, and trends in school reform found a
correspondence between changes in grant funding
and college enrollment rates by high school
graduates during the last three decades (St. John,
2003). States that maintain adequate grant aid can
equalize persistence across diverse groups (Hu &
St. John, 2001; St. John, 1999). The research
literature reinforces the importance of both state
need-based and non-need grants on postsecondary
access ? moreover, responses to charges (tuition
and living costs) and different types of aid have
different effects on different groups (Dresch, 1975;
St. John & Starkey, 1995). Thus, there is still good
reason to consider the relationships between
trends in state financial strategies and changes in
postsecondary enrollment patterns.
Academic preparation
During the past two decades many policy
analysts have focused on the role of academic
preparation for college in efforts to build a better
understanding of college access (Choy, 2002;
Gladieux & Swail, 1999; King, 1999; NCES,
1997a). Policy research on the role of academic
preparation grew out of efforts by the Reagan
administration to respond to concerns about the
gap in enrollment rates between white students
and African-American students after 1978. The
official reports prepared in response to this
concern examined the relationship between the
academic courses taken in high school and college
enrollment (Pelavin & Kane, 1988, 1990). Although
previous studies controlled for the impact of taking
a college preparatory curriculum (e.g., Jackson,
1978; St. John, 1991; St. John & Noell, 1989), they
did not examine the impact of specific high school
courses, such as algebra. Pelavin and Kane (1988,
1990) examined the effects of taking specific math
courses. NCES reports have also documented the
association between academic preparation, as
measured by high school courses, and college
enrollment. A recent report published by the
American Council on Education summarizes these
studies, concluding that academic preparation
influences college enrollment (Choy, 2002). Thus,
in addition to the effects of tuition and student aid
on college enrollments, academic preparation
plays an important role in postsecondary access.
States that maintain
adequate grant aid
can equalize
persistence across
diverse groups.
7
The challenge
Research on college access should find a
balanced approach that considers both academic
preparation and financial access for prepared
students. Research using a balanced approach to
assess the impact of state finance strategies on
enrollment has been limited, but compelling. A
few studies that reanalyzed NCES reports found
that large numbers of college-qualified students
were left behind in the 1990s because of low
funding for need-based grants (Advisory Committee
on Student Financial Assistance, 2002; St.
John, 2002). Using NCES data (NELS:88), Perna
and Titus (2002) found that need-based aid
influenced college access and concluded that
states? financial access policies play a central role in
expanding access.
States play a fundamental role in college access
and have the primary responsibility for providing
education and ensuring equity in postsecondary
educational opportunity. The policies that states
use to finance higher education influence financial
access (i.e., whether students who are qualified for
college can afford to attend). States also set
graduation requirements that influence academic
access (whether high school students are academically
prepared for college). The intent of this
report is to examine the effect of state financial
strategies on college access; thus, we do not
consider variations in high school curricula or
differing graduation requirements among states.
Although we recognize that high school graduates
are not necessarily academically prepared for
college, students who graduate from high school
can nonetheless enroll in community colleges and
many non-selective four-year institutions.
8
Our model of the effects of public
finance strategies on college
enrollments is based on an
understanding of social and
economic theory, research on educational
attainment,3 and research on price response and
public finance (St. John, 2003; St. John & Paulsen,
2001). This conceptual model (see Figure 1 on the
next page) recognizes that there is an educational
attainment pipeline in each state that is affected by
the public finance strategies used in the state. The
educational attainment pipeline is influenced by:
? Demographic context: The ethnic
composition of the state?s population and
the extent of wealth, poverty and attained
education.4 The demographic context
represents the state-level equivalent of
variables for family income and parents?
education, which are frequently used in
studies of college access that use individual-
level data.
? High school graduation rates: Studies of
enrollment in four-year colleges indicate it
is desirable to consider the specific courses
that students take in high school. However,
most states accommodate for
enrollment in two-year colleges if students
receive a high school diploma. Given the
limitations of available data on statewide
secondary school curricula requirements,
and the intent of this study to examine
access to two-year and four-year colleges,
we consider the role of high school
graduation rates as a proxy for minimal
academic preparation.
? Postsecondary attainment: We use college
enrollment rates for high school graduates
as our initial measure of educational
attainment. Ideally, measures of college
graduation or other persistence indicators
would provide useful information about the
returns on state investments in postsecondary
education.
The systems of public finance are the primary
means that states can use to promote educational
attainment, especially college attainment among
their resident populations. The system of state
finance links to the educational attainment
pipeline in several ways:
? Tax rates: A state?s tax rate, controlling for
the wealth of the population, can influence
both academic preparation and college
attainment. The tax rate measure used here
was total taxes collected by a state divided
The influence of state finances on college access

9
by the sum of personal income of the state?s
residents (from the U.S. Census Bureau).
? School funding: The level of state funding
for public K-12 education can be influenced
by the wealth and tax rates in a
state.5 The level of school funding could
influence the high school graduation rate
in a state and has a direct effect on the
availability of certain high school courses.
? Expected tuition and grants: There is a
common-sense linkage between student
expectations about tuition and grants and
their desire to prepare for college (St. John,
2002). Therefore, there is reason to expect
that average public tuition charges and
average state grants two years prior to
graduation can influence the high school
graduation rate in a state.
? Expected system capacity: Limited
opportunity can constrain access and
discourage graduation.
? Actual college prices: States finance
college access and persistence through
student grants (need-based and non-need)
and tuition subsidies to public colleges. At
a given level of educational expenditures
by public colleges, state subsidies to public
colleges reduce tuition prices charged to
college students.
In addition to public finance strategies, the
composition of a state postsecondary education system
has an influence on college access. Extensive twoyear
college systems can expand access as can the
existence of private colleges in a state. Thus, it is
appropriate to control for the structure of state
systems of higher education.6 While some resident
students enroll in out-of-state institutions, this
emigration of college students is unlikely to be
influenced by state finance strategies unless states
provide grant subsidies to students who enroll out
of state.7
Using the conceptual model described on the
previous page (and illustrated in Figure 1 below),
this report examines the impact of demographic
indicators and state financial strategies on college
enrollment rates. (A model testing the impact of
state financial strategies on high school graduation
rates is described in Appendix 2). To test this
model, the study team developed a set of indica-
Figure 1. Framework for assessing the impact of public finance strategies on postsecondary attainment
10
tors of financial and demographic variables for
each of the 50 states for the 1992, 1994, 1996,
1998, and 2000 fiscal years. All dollar amounts
were adjusted to 2000 dollars. The analyses of
high school graduation rates used tuition and
financial aid amounts for two years prior to
graduation. This was done to reflect the financial
conditions that prevailed when students in a
cohort were enrolled in high school and were
making future plans. The indicators are described
in Appendix 1.
Analyses of the impact of
state finance strategies
Analyses of state student aid programs have
been done in a few state-level comparisons (Binder
& Ganderton, 2001; Cornwell, Mustard, & Sridhar,
2001; Dynarski, 2000), but this is the first study to
use fixed-effects regression with multiple years of
data on all states. Earlier state-level comparisons
indicate that state grant programs do affect college
enrollment. This report builds on those approaches.
(OLS regression results are presented in
Appendix 3 so readers can compare the two
analysis methods.)8 A two-step procedure was used
to estimate the impact of state finance strategies
on enrollment. This method overcomes some of
the limitations of prior efforts to simulate the
impact of changes in public finance policies on
enrollment rates.9 Variables considered in the
analysis of the impact of public finance strategies
on college enrollment of high school graduates are
presented in Table 1 below. The analysis of the
impact of financial strategies on college enrollment
rates follows.10
Limitations
The analyses assume current funding levels for
Pell grants and other types of federal aid:
? The regression analyses assess the additional
impact of state grants that supplement federal
need-based grant awards (Pell). Pell is awarded
based on uniform criteria across states.
? The simulations of alternative grant strategies
also assume that the existing federal programs
will be continued at the current award levels.
If a new federal-state grant program were
Table 1. Independent variables used in analysis of college enrollment rates by high school graduates
? Demographic context
1. Percent of the state population below the poverty level
2. Percent of African Americans in the population
3. Percent of Hispanics in the population
4. Percent of other minorities in the population
5. Size of the ninth-grade cohort four years prior
? State system
1. Percent public two-year institution FTE
2. Percent private institution FTE
? Financial controls (tax rate)
? Higher education finance strategies
1. Need-based grants per FTE (for first year of college eligibility)
2. Non-need grants per FTE (for first year of college eligibility)
3. Tuition charges weighted per FTE (for first year of college eligibility)
11
created but Pell grants were reduced, then
access would be reduced as a consequence of
these reductions in Pell.11
Although we focus exclusively on the impact of
state finance strategies on expanding
postsecondary access, there is a sound basis for
assuming state investments in postsecondary
education would also affect student success. For
example, a substantial body of research indicates
state grants influence persistence. State-level
studies have found that funding for state needbased
grants helped equalize the opportunity for
persistence in Washington state (St. John, 1999)
and Indiana (Hu & St. John, 2001; St. John, Hu, &
Weber, 2000, 2001). Further, Indiana?s Twenty-first
Century Scholars Program has been shown to
influence academic preparation, college enrollment,
and college persistence for low-income high
school students (St. John, Musoba, Simmons, &
Chung, 2002; St. John, Musoba, Simmons, Schmit,
Chung, & Peng, 2002). In the future, the state
indicators approach used in this report should be
extended to include analyses of student persistence
and degree completion.
This report provides an analysis of the impact
of financial aid on postsecondary access using a
new methodology. It is the first study to use fixedeffects
regression with a state-level database
composed of state indicators. Using states as the
unit of analysis provides appropriate logical and
statistical controls for simulations of the impact of
state grant strategies on college enrollment rates.
This approach provides a method of assessing the
Table 2. Fixed-effect regression: the influence of population characteristics and state finance strategies on
college enrollment rates in the 1990s
Regression coefficient
Unstand. Standard.
Percent poverty -0.462 -0.238 ***
Percent African-American -1.810 -2.326
Percent Hispanic -1.174 -1.316 *
Percent other minorities 2.388 3.001
Enrollment when the cohort was ninth grade -0.000 -0.694 *
Percent of population with bachelor?s degree or higher 0.299 0.182 *
Percent public two-year institution FTE 0.211 0.328 *
Percent private institution FTE 0.643 1.089 ***
Tax rate (=State tax collection/personal income) -0.071 -0.015
Per-FTE need-based grant amount ($/1,000) 0.115 0.426 ***
Per-FTE non-need grant amount ($/1,000) 0.089 0.204 ***
Undergrad in-state tuition and fees for public system ($/1,000) 0.100 0.146
Adjusted R square 0.789
N 244
P-value for F test that all ui=0 0.000
Note: *** p Sig.
12
impact of financial aid ? need-based and nonneed
? on enrollment rates in states, controlling
for state demographic differences and the minimal
level of college preparedness.12
Results
While the first aim of this report ? to measure
the effects of state finance strategies on access ?
may seem straightforward, it is a complex process
that is further complicated by methodological
considerations. To illuminate the role of public
finance in promoting access, the report examines
high school graduation rates (Appendix 2) both as
an indicator of the indirect effects of financial
access on high school graduation and as an
indicator of the direct effects of financial strategies
on college enrollments (by high school graduates).
Table 2 illustrates the results of the statistical
analysis of college enrollment rates. State finance
strategies had a substantial and direct effect on
college enrollment by high school graduates,
controlling for demographic contexts and the
structure of higher education in the states. On
average, for every $1,000 of need-based grant aid,
enrollment rose 11.5 percentage points. Similarly,
for every $1,000 of non-need grant aid, enrollment
rose 8.9 percentage points. At the same time, state
demographics and system capacity also influence
college enrollment. The poverty level in a state
was significant and negatively associated with
college enrollment rates. The percentage of the
population with college degrees was also positively
associated with college enrollment rates, further
indicating that demographic variables related to
socioeconomic status (SES) have a substantial and
direct influence on college enrollment by students
who graduated from high school.13
The capacity of state higher education systems
also affects postsecondary opportunity. The
percentages of students enrolled both in community
colleges and private colleges were positively
associated with enrollment rates in the states.14
Tax capacity was not associated with college
enrollment.
Both need-based grants and non-need grants
were significant and positively associated with
enrollment rates, although the direct effects of
need-based grant aid were much more substantial
(double the standardized beta).15 Tuition charges
were not significantly associated with enrollment.
These results suggest the most efficient way for
states to expand access is to expand need-based
grant aid.16
for a state need-based grant program that
represents improved state policy coordination, and
(2) a new second-tier need-based grant program
funded through a 1:2 federal:state match.
Option 1: Improved state
policy coordination
In the 1990s, public sector tuition charges rose
substantially as the percentage of educational costs
supported by state appropriations declined (Price,
2003; St. John, 2003; St.
John, Simmons,
Hoezee, Wooden, &
Musoba, 2002). For the
majority of families with
children attending
college, there was a
tradeoff in the 1990s:
Lower tax subsidies to
public higher education
meant lower individual
taxes but higher direct
costs while their
children were enrolled
in college. In addition, higher tuitions made
college less affordable for low-income students
13
States can realize
more efficient use of
tax dollars by
coordinating
tuition and needbased
grants.
The analyses above reveal that needbased
grant aid influences college
enrollment rates for high school
graduates more substantially than do
non-need grants or tuition levels. In this context,
states can realize more efficient use of tax dollars
by coordinating tuition and need-based grants in
ways that expand access, especially for low-income
students. During the recent federal policy debate
surrounding the reauthorization of the Higher
Education Act, some groups recommended a
substantial increase in Pell grants as a strategy for
ensuring financial access (Advisory Committee on
Student Financial Assistance, 2002; College Board,
2003). Although the authors agree with the intent
of these recommendations, which is to increase
need-based grants, we believe it is more politically
viable to seek better coordination of tuition levels
with need-based financial aid.
The results from these statistical models were
used to inform simulations that estimate the
enrollment effects of additional federal and/or state
investments in postsecondary education. The
simulations provide a useful tool to inform the
federal and state policy discourse around expanding
access to college. These simulations consider
two distinct approaches to state and federal
collaboration on financial access: (1) a threshold
Coordinating state finance strategies

14
(National Center for Public Policy and Higher
Education, 2002). As public sector tuition
increases, students from the lowest-income families
require corresponding grant increases to maintain
access (Advisory Committee on Student Financial
Assistance, 2002). In this environment, states could
increase need-based grants to ensure financial
access given the negative impact of higher prices
on college access for low-income students.
The notion that an award threshold should be
defined for grants is not new. The original
legislation for Pell grants set a maximum award
level, a program feature that has been carried
forward in subsequent reauthorizations of the
Higher Education Act. Recently, an expert panel
for the College Board (2003) recommended that
the Pell award should be raised to a maximum of
$9,700, and the Alliance for Equity in Higher
Education (2003) recommended doubling the
authorized maximum ($5,100) within the next six
years. While it may be desirable to increase Pell
grants, it probably is not feasible in the current
political climate given current budget deficits and
political support for tax decreases.
Based on prior analyses (St. John 2003; St.
John, Simmons, Hoezee, Wooden, & Musoba,
2002), we consider one-quarter of weighted
average tuition charges for all students in a state as
the minimum average level for state grant aid. To
the extent that states allow tuition in public
colleges to rise due to inadequate state funding for
institutions, they should invest a portion of tax
revenue saved in need-based grants. Given the
base provided by federal grants (including Pell
grants), this would represent a minimum threshold
for state need-based grants if states intended to
maintain financial access when tuition increased.
Very few states maintain grants at this target level
(average need-based grants equaling one-quarter of
the average tuition charge).
Trends in tuition charges and student aid
(Table 3 below) reveal that states have not
maintained grants at levels that represent the
?equity standard? (one-quarter of the weighted
average tuition charge). In states that are under
political pressure both to expand college access
and restrain tax increases, coordination of tuition
and need-based grant aid provides a clear
alternative to maintaining lower tuition. Increasing
need-based grants at this level, given a tuition
increase of $1,000, would cost these states an
average of $250 in need-based grant aid per FTE
(25 percent of $1,000). In contrast, maintaining
low tuition would cost an additional $1,000 per
student.17 Because the additional grant dollars are
need-based, students from the lowest-income
families could receive awards equal to full tuition,
while moderate-income students would receive
smaller awards, and students from high-income
families would not receive additional state grants.
Table 3. Trends in tuition charges and need-based grants in the United States (in 2000 dollars)
Tuition and fees Need-based grant Targeted need-based Equity gap in state
weighted per FTE per FTE grant per FTE need-based grants
1992-93 $2,332 $344 $583 ($239)
1994-95 $2,541 $404 $635 ($232)
1996-97 $2,661 $396 $665 ($269)
1998-99 $2,741 $419 $685 ($266)
2000-01 $2,728 $366 $682 ($316)
Average $2,601 $386 $650 ($264)
Source:
15
Coordinating state
need-based grants
with tuition
provides a means
of making more
efficient use of
tax dollars.
Coordinating state need-based grants with
tuition provides a means of making more efficient
use of tax dollars while maintaining financial
access for low-income students. The average
tuition charge increased from $2,332 in 1992-93
to $2,728 in 2000-01, while the average needbased
grant increased from $583 to $682. The
average gap between the targeted grant amount
and the actual amount grew 32 percent from $239
per FTE in 1992-93 to $316 per FTE in 2000-01.
Of course need-based grants for students with
high need would be at least equal to their tuition if
all states maintained this minimum targeted award
strategy.
Option 2: A new federal-state
partnership
This option is based on a proposal by St. John
(2003) to minimally raise the maximum Pell award
and encourage states to coordinate their public
finance strategies for tuition and grants in a way
that ensures financial access for low-income
students.18 This proposed state-federal partnership
would provide a new second-tier state grant
equaling one-quarter of the weighted average
public sector tuition charges. States would be
required to fund two-thirds of the grant program
but would receive federal matching grants equal to
one-third of the total new investment in needbased
grants.19 States would be required to
continue their current investment in grants to
realize the new federal support, which ensures that
both states and the federal government share
responsibility for the new investment. Resident
students attending in-state private colleges should
be eligible for the new grants.
The recommended state-federal partnership
includes:
? A basic federal grant: The federal government
should maintain a maximum Pell
award level of about $4,500 or an amount
set at the level of the average room and
board in colleges and universities in the
U.S., adjusted for inflation. This amount is
approximately equal to the Pell maximum
in 1980 when access was more equitable.
? A state equalization grant: States should
maintain a maximum award for low-income
students equaling tuition charges at the
public college they attended.20 This
approach would encourage states to
provide adequate aid to ensure that
financial access is maintained.
Put simply, if states provided need-based grant
awards equaling the tuition charges of public
institutions for lowincome
students attending
those colleges (and an
equivalent amount for
private colleges), then
federal and state policy
would be better coordinated.
In the proposed
scenario, the maximum
award of a Pell grant plus
the maximum for the state
grant would equal $8,500
for the lowest-income
students attending public
colleges that charged
$4,000 in tuition and fees.
In contrast, the highest-need students in a state
with $3,000 as the tuition for a public institution
would receive a total of $7,500 in the two-tier
grant program. Because not all students require
need-based grant aid, a mean award equal to onequarter
of tuition would allow for full-tuition
grants for students with the greatest need, offset
by no awards to high-income students without
financial need.
Although the idea of coordinating
student financial aid strategies has a
long history in policy analysis
(Hansen & Weisbrod, 1969; Hearn &
Anderson, 1989, 1995; Hearn & Longanecker,
1985), previous state-level analyses have not
shown clearly how best to
achieve this coordination.
In other words, no
minimum standard for
policy coordination has
been proposed. In this
section, we (1) review the
concept of a minimum
standard that is most often
espoused in economics
and policy analysis
(Paulsen, 2001b), (2)
summarize the costbenefit
analysis of
implementing this
minimum standard, and
(3) consider the implications
of the recommended coordination strategy.
The analyses estimate costs and benefits for the
average freshman class in the 1990s. Further data
16
analysis would be needed to estimate the full costs
for future years.
Setting a minimum standard
of coordination
The idea that states should coordinate needbased
aid with other public finance strategies has a
long history, but since a minimum standard has
never been proposed, it has been difficult for any
group to make reasonable judgments about
whether states have maintained equal
postsecondary opportunity. The concept of
affordability used in some reports (National Center
for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2002;
2000) relates the price of college to the ability of a
state?s population to pay those prices. However,
states can have low tuition and still not be
equitable if they do not provide adequate grant aid
for the lowest-income students.
Based on a review of trends in the financing of
public and private colleges, St. John (2003)
recommended that states invest in need-based
grant programs at a level equaling one-quarter of
the average public sector tuition charge. In the
The costs and benefits of
improved policy coordination

States can have
low tuition and
still not be
equitable if they
do not provide
adequate grant
aid for the lowestincome
students.
17
1990s, private colleges typically had institutional
grants equaling about one-quarter of tuition
revenue. Grant aid in private colleges was often
leveraged as a means of reaching enrollment goals
(McPherson & Schapiro, 1997), an approach that
mixes merit and need in the awarding of aid
(Ehrenberg, 2002; Hossler, in press). The
minimum equity standard can protect low-income,
college-qualified students in periods when tuition
charges increase. Making a sufficient investment in
need-based grant aid is necessary in most states to
equalize opportunity for high- and low-income
students who are college-qualified.
To achieve the public policy goal of equal
postsecondary opportunity, states should balance
four goals:
? Provide sufficient opportunity to improve
college enrollment rates for high school
graduates (a structural measure of access) in
quality institutions.
? Provide sufficient student aid to equalize
opportunity for similarly prepared highand
low-income students (equity) ? this
report suggests a minimum standard for
that goal.
? Maintain reasonable tax costs per student,
as measured by tax expenditures per
student (tax efficiency).
? Maintain sufficient revenues per student in
public colleges to be competitive with peer
institutions (adequacy).
Assessing alternative strategies:
Results from the simulations
The Advisory Committee on Student Financial
Assistance (2002) estimated that 4 million collegequalified
students were denied financial access to
four-year colleges during the 1990s because of
inadequate need-based grants. Lee (2001) used a
more conservative analysis. He estimated that
140,666 college-qualified, low-income students in
the high school class of 1992 did not enroll, in
part due to shortfalls in need-based grants. If this
number of students were left behind each year of
the 1990s, then 1.4 million college-qualified, lowincome
students would have been denied access in
that decade. Regardless of which estimate of
enrollment shortfall one uses, it is apparent that a
large number of college-qualified students would
have enrolled in college in the 1990s had there
been adequate need-based student financial aid.
The next two sections of this report examine
the costs and benefits of two possible strategies for
meeting the minimum equity standard:
Option 1: Improved state coordination: The
first option would raise the average need-based
state grant to an amount equaling one-quarter of
tuition. This increase would vary by state, but each
state would bring its average grant up to onequarter
of public sector tuition.
Option 2: A new state-federal partnership: In
the second option, we propose a second-tier grant
program. This new grant would be awarded on top
of any grant programs states currently offer. The
federal government would fund one-third of the
total cost of this new grant program. The proposal
for the $2-to-$1 match is based on the current
formula used in the federal Leveraging Educational
Assistance Partnership Program (LEAP).
Estimated enrollment effects
Table 4 on the next page presents the estimated
enrollment effects for Option 1, improved
state policy coordination. (The method used to
estimate the enrollment effects option is summarized
in Box 1 on Page 19.) The baseline of the
enrollment effects for this option suggests that
120,500 additional high school graduates would
have enrolled in college each year during the
1990s. Thus, an additional 1.2 million new high
school graduates would have enrolled throughout
the decade.
18
High- and low-range estimates of enrollment
effects are also presented in Table 4 below. If for
some reason the supply
of opportunity (openings
in colleges) or number of
qualified high school
graduates was severely
limited, then the program
could result in a smaller
increase in college
enrollment. However,
analyses of high school
preparation indicate
there are ample qualified
high school graduates to
fill the seats if sufficient
aid is available. At the
other extreme, if the
percentage of collegequalified
students had been higher and there had
been ample postsecondary opportunity, then more
students would probably have enrolled. The highrange
estimates illustrate this type of scenario.
The analysis of the costs and effects of
coordinating public finance strategies is also
presented in Table 4. States would need to invest
an additional $533 million per year to meet the
minimum threshold based on data from the 1990s.
This amount represents about a 10 percent
increase in state grant programs based on the latest
data from the National Association of State
Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP,
2003). We estimate that this additional investment
would have resulted in 1.2 million more students
enrolling as freshmen over the decade. According
to the baseline estimates, the average cost would
be $4,400 in new grant dollars per additional
student enrolled across the U.S. Of course, the
amount of investment necessary to reach the
minimum equity standard varies substantially
across states.
Table 5 on Page 20 illustrates the costs and
benefits of Option 2, a proposed state-federal
partnership to fund a new second-tier state grant
program. (For simulation methods, refer to Box 2
on Page 21.) Clearly, if this partnership had existed
Table 4. Estimated costs and benefits of meeting the minimum equity standards in funding for need-based
grant: baseline, low-range and high-range estimates
Baseline Low-range effect High-range effect
Estimate of enrollment effects
High school graduation
Rate increase 1.0% points 1.0% points 1.0% points
New graduates 38,000 38,000 38,000
College enrollment
Rate increase 3.8% points 1.1% points 6.5% points
New enrollment 120,500 50,000 191,000
Estimate of costs
Cost per new student $4,400 $10,000 $3,000
Additional funding for need-based
grants (in millions) $ 533 $ 498 $ 568
The amount of
investment
necessary to reach
the minimum
equity standard
varies
substantially
across states.
19
Box 1 ? Estimation of costs for Option 1:
Minimum equity standards in need-based state grants
The United States? figures were estimated as follows.
? Step 1: For each state, the average tuition (weighted by enrollment) in the 1990s was multiplied
by .25, setting a new state grant standard. For the nation, the new grant standard was $650,
based on an average national weighted tuition of $2,601.
? Step 2: For each state, the actual average need-based grant in the 1990s was subtracted from the
standard for that state, producing the additional grant funding necessary for the minimum equity
standard. The national average shortfall, weighted for enrollment, was $264.
? Step 3: Estimated increases in the rate and number of high school graduates were calculated for
each state using the regression coefficient from a model predicting high school graduation rates.
The national rate of increase (1 percent) was calculated by averaging state rates. Total new
graduates (38,000) were calculated by summing state numbers.
? Step 4: Estimated increases in the rate of college enrollment were calculated for each state using
the regression coefficients from the model predicting college enrollment rates, taking into
consideration the adjusted number of high school graduates from Step 3. The national rate of
increase (3.8 percent) was calculated by averaging the rates of increase for all states. State
increases were summed to produce a national total of new enrollment (120,500).
? Step 5: Program costs for each state were calculated by multiplying the new college freshman
enrollment (original freshman enrollment + increase) by the additional grant funding required
for the minimum equity standard (Step 2). Costs for each state were summed to produce a
national total of $533.1 million.
? Step 6: For each state, the cost per new student enrolled was calculated by dividing total costs
by the number of new students. Nationally, the cost per new student enrolled was $4,400.
? Step 7: Low- and high-range effects were produced following the same steps, but applying 95
percent confidence limits around the regression coefficient for college enrollment.
NOTE: State-level profiles and calculations are available on the Indiana Education Policy Center Web site at
this URL: http://www.indiana.edu/~iepc/hepolicy/fiscalindicators.pdf
20
in the 1990s, it would have had a substantial,
direct impact on enrollment. The baseline
estimates indicate that, had the partnership been in
effect, 255,300 additional students would have
enrolled each year in the 1990s ? 2.56 million
new students during the decade, at a cost per
student of about $4,800 (a total price tag of about
$1.23 billion).
Table 5. Estimated costs and benefits of prospective state-federal partnership for need-based grants:
baseline, low-range and high-range estimates
Baseline Low-range effect High-range effect
Estimate of enrollment effects
High school graduates
Rate increase 2.1% points 2.1% points 2.1% points
New graduates 77,000 77,000 77,000
College enrollment
Rate increase 7.9% points 2.3% points 13.5% points
New enrollment 255,300 106,100 404,500
Estimate of costs
Cost per new student $4,800 $10,400 $3,300
Additional funding for need-based
grants (in million $) $1,226 $1,107 $1,344
State $ 817 $ 738 $ 896
Federal $ 409 $ 369 $ 448
It is important to note, however, that the highand
low-range estimates assume no change in the
current number of high school graduates. If current
K-12 reform efforts (including the No Child Left
Behind Act) succeed, then more students will
graduate from high school and would be eligible
for grants offered under such a partnership. If the
reform efforts fall short of their goals, the effects of
any new aid program would be more limited.
21
Box 2 ? Estimation of costs for Option 2:
State-federal partnership for need-based state grants
The United States? figures were estimated as follows.
? Step 1: For each state, the average tuition (weighted by enrollment) in the 1990s was multiplied
by .25, setting a new state grant standard. For the nation, the new grant standard was $650,
based on an average national weighted tuition of $2,601.
? Step 2: Estimated increases in the rate and number of high school graduates were calculated for
each state using the regression coefficient from a model predicting high school graduation rates.
National rates of increase (2.1 percent) and total new graduates (77,000) were calculated by
averaging state rates and summing state numbers.
? Step 3: Estimated increases in college enrollment were calculated for each state using the
regression coefficient from the model predicting college enrollment rates. A national rate of
increase (7.9 percent) was calculated by averaging the rates of increase for all states. State
increases were summed to produce a national total (255,300).
? Step 4: Program costs for each state were calculated by multiplying the new college freshman
enrollment (original + increase) by $650, the state standard set in Step 1. Costs for each state
were summed to produce a national total of $1.226 billion. For each state, the federal share was
assumed to be 1/3 and the state?s share was assumed to be 2/3. Nationally, the federal share was
estimated at approximately $408.6 million and the states? share was estimated at $817.2 million.
? Step 5: For each state, the cost per new student enrolled was approximated by dividing total
costs by the number of new students. The national average cost per new student enrolled was
$4,800.
? Step 6: Low- and high-range effects were produced following the same steps, but applying 95
percent confidence limits around the regression coefficient for college enrollment.
NOTE: State-level profiles and calculations are available on the Indiana Education Policy Center Web site at
this URL: http://www.indiana.edu/~iepc/hepolicy/fiscalindicators.pdf
22
Although there has been substantial
disagreement in the policy literature
about underlying causes of the
current access challenge, there is
general agreement that college access should be
expanded, especially for college-prepared, lowincome
students.
During the 1990s, states allowed public tuition
charges to rise when they lacked tax revenues to
provide continuity in
funding for state colleges
and universities. However,
funding of state need-based
grants did not increase at a
rate that held harmless
students from low-income
and other disadvantaged
backgrounds. This lack of
investment had significant
negative consequences for
college enrollments. This
study examined the effects
of state finance strategies on
college enrollment rates and
documented the substantial
direct influence of need-based grant aid on college
enrollment during the 1990s (Table 2). Based on
our analyses, had states coordinated increases in
need-based grants with increases in tuition, an
estimated 1.21 million additional students would
have enrolled in the 1990s.
Investing sufficiently in student grants
represents an efficient use of tax dollars, especially
if the goal of public policy is to equalize
postsecondary opportunity. Although a state that
provided an across-the-board new investment in
terms of per-FTE direct appropriations may have
kept tuition at a reasonable level, the tuition
reduction resulting from the increased state
investment is not likely to have yielded as many
new students. Moreover, the taxpayer cost per
student enrolled in higher education would have
increased.
The proposed state-federal partnership
represents a more workable approach for improving
financial access for qualified students than any
of the other options now open to the federal
government. The cost to the federal government
per new student enrolled would be $1,600,
substantially less than other forms of federal
student aid. For states, the new program would
cost about $3,200 per new student, which is
significantly less than the investment necessary for
states to maintain a minimum need-based grant
threshold on their own.
The challenge facing state and federal policy is
to expand access while making more efficient use
of tax dollars that are available for higher educa-
Conclusions and implications

A state-federal
partnership
represents a more
workable
approach for
improving
financial access.
23
tion. If the United States is to meet the collegeaccess
challenge of the early 21st century, then
changes in higher education finance are necessary.
The federal government can help states meet this
access challenge by:
? Providing a basic grant that meets a
minimum adequacy threshold (i.e., a Pell
grant that is equal to room and board cost
in public colleges).
? Initiating a new state-federal grant program
that provides tuition support for collegequalified
students who have financial need.
The basic grant could be achieved by setting
the Pell maximum at the average living costs of
public colleges in the U.S., then indexing the
grant to inflation so there would be no incentive
to raise living costs. The maximum Pell awards
during the past four years have been relatively
close to this standard. Therefore this modification
to the Pell grant program would represent a
modest additional investment in this crucial federal
program.
The proposed state-federal partnership
(Option 2, Page 21) would set a maximum needbased
award in each state at the tuition level of
public colleges. Students in private colleges could
be eligible for the maximum award, possibly with a
modest tuition equalization supplement.21 The
cost-benefit analysis for this proposal indicates
that the nation would realize gains in enrollment
rates with a sufficient investment in need-based
grant aid. This state-federal partnership would
provide a low-cost approach for the federal
government to ensure financial access for collegequalified,
low-income high school graduates.
In the current context, the burden of paying for
expanding college access falls substantially on
states. In this proposed state-federal grant program,
the federal government would make a modest new
investment. States would have an incentive to
develop more economical approaches for financing
the expansion of the public and private colleges. In
addition, the state-federal collaboration would
have substantially lower costs for federal taxpayers
than the widely advocated option of doubling or
tripling the size of Pell grants.
Although this program may result in additional
increases in tuition during the first few decades of
the 21st century, the public investments in higher
education would become more efficient and more
progressive. That is, higher-income families would
pay the ?market? price for college, while state
support would make that price more affordable for
moderate- and low-income families. It is time to
make tough choices. It simply is not possible to
continue to reduce taxes, allow tuitions to increase
to inaccessible levels, and expand access to fouryear
colleges. Coordination of federal and state
finance strategies is a feasible way to meet the
access challenge.
24
Appendices

25
Appendix 1: State indicators for demographic
and financial variables
Annual reports by NCES in the Integrated
Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), as
well as supplemental analyses provided by Tom
Mortenson at Postsecondary Education Opportunity,
provided data for state indicators. The
indicators related to school outcomes were:
? High school graduation rate, used as an
outcome measure (calculated from NCES
high school graduation data and the
enrollment when the cohorts were in ninth
grade).
? College enrollment rate, used as an
outcome measure (fall enrollment reports
were used to calculate the percentage of
high school graduates enrolled in higher
education in the following fall22).
In addition, we used one indicator related to
the size of the K-12 population as a control for
population size:
? Size of the ninth-grade cohort, used as an
independent variable to control for
population size (from NCES?s Common
Core of Data).
IPEDS was the primary data source for the
indicators related to tuition and financial aid.
Analysis of IPEDS represented a major part of the
work required to complete this project, given the
complexity of this information system.23 IPEDS
was used for information on:
? College finances (College tuition weighted
per FTE).24
? State system and college enrollment (Fall
enrollment data were used to develop
weights25 for financial indicators and to
calculate the percentage of FTE students
enrolled in the various sectors of higher
education, public four-year, public twoyear,
and private colleges in the state.
These analyses used total FTE rather than
college freshman enrollment because this
provided a better indicator of capacity.
The other indicators related to public
financing of higher education included:
? Tax rate (state tax collection in a given year
divided by personal income, an indicator
from U.S. Census Bureau, State Government
Tax Collections).
? Need-based grants adjusted per FTE. (Total
need-based grants were derived from
NASSGAP, Annual Survey Reports and
divided by undergraduate FTE in the state.)
? Non-need grants adjusted per FTE. (The
sum of total merit and other grants,
calculated from NASSGAP, Annual Survey
Reports, divided by undergraduate FTE.)
? K-12 expenditures per FTE (NCES,
National Public Education Financial Survey).
In addition, this report uses the following state
indicators, developed from other data sources:26
? Percent poverty in the population27 (U.S.
Census Bureau, Current Population
Survey).
? Percent African-American (U.S. Census
Bureau, Population Estimates).
? Percent Hispanic (U.S. Census Bureau,
Population Estimates).
? Percent other minority (calculated by
adding the percentages of Native Americans
and Asians and dividing by the state
population, U.S. Census Bureau, Population
Estimates).
? Percent of the population with bachelor?s
degrees or higher28 (U.S. Census Bureau,
Current Population Survey).
26
Appendix 2: The impact of state financial
strategies on high school graduation rates
As explained in the report, state finance
strategies can influence high school graduates in
two ways (see Figure 1, Page 9). State funds for
school and tax rates have a direct effect. In
addition, the tuition charges and grant aid
programs in a state two years prior to a cohort?s
graduation can influence enrollment rates because
they influence perceptions of college affordability.
Model specifications
When assessing the impact of state finance
policies on high school graduation rates, it is
appropriate to use linear models because the
outcomes are continuous variables. This report
presents the results of two fixed-effect regression
analyses of the impact of public finance policies on
access using the state indicators data29 (see
Appendix 1). Variables considered in the regression
predicting high school graduation rates are
shown in Table 2.1 below.
In addition to these variables, the capacity of
state systems (number of enrollment slots in the
public system) can constrain or expand opportunity.
Unfortunately, we did not have an appropriate
indicator for total capacity of public systems.
This analysis used a fixed-effects regression.
This method includes a latent variable for each
state, so the analysis essentially controls for the
unique characteristics of states.30
High school graduation rates
The availability of financial aid has an indirect
effect on college enrollment rates because it
influences the will of low-income students to finish
high school (Advisory Committee on Student
Financial Assistance, 2002; St. John, 2003).
Simply put, students may drop out if they do not
think they can get the money they need to pay for
college. By the junior year, most students have
some understanding of college affordability and
available grant aid. If a junior has a 2.5 GPA, but
the states give grants only to students with a 3.0,
then the state?s aid system could have a negative
effect on graduation. High school graduation rates
were influenced by the demographic context of
the state and the strategies used to finance higher
education, controlling for public finance of schools
(Table 2.2 on the next page).
Table 2.1. Independent variables used in analysis of high school graduation rates
? Demographic context
1. Percent of the state population below the poverty level
2. Percent of African-Americans in the population
3. Percent of Hispanics in the population
4. Percent of other minorities in the population
5. Size of the ninth-grade cohort four years prior
6. Percent of the population with a bachelor?s degree or higher
? Financial controls
1. Tax rate
2. K-12 expenditures (two years before graduation)
? Higher education finance strategies
1. Need-based grants per-FTE (two years before high school graduation)
2. Non-need grants per-FTE (two years before high school graduation)
3. Tuition charges weighted per-FTE (two years before high school graduation)
27
Three of the demographic variables were
significant in the fixed-effects regression analysis.
The percentage of Hispanics in a state?s population
was positively associated with high school
graduation. The percentage of the population that
comprises other minorities and the percentage that
had a bachelor?s degree or higher were negatively
associated with high school graduation rates.
The reasons why education level was negatively
associated with high school graduation rates
are complex. Since this report provides the first
state-level study of this type, it is likely these
methods can be improved upon. The fixed-effects
analysis statistically controls for the state context.
First, we can only speculate about the explanations
of the finding on education levels of the population.
If states import highly educated citizens, they
may have artificially depressed high school
graduation rates in these statistical models because
the population with children is less well-educated
(on average) than new citizens attracted to these
states. Alternatively, an educated citizenry could
keep educational standards high, which may
dissuade low-achieving students. Second, high
school graduation rates actually declined in the
1990s, which adds to the complexity of interpreting
this finding. The decline in graduation rates is
partially attributable to the impact of state
education reforms.32 The impact of school reforms
is ?controlled for? by the state variables implicit33
in fixed-effects models. Therefore the effects of
some reforms could confound these analyses.
Table 2.2. Fixed-effect regression: the influence of population characteristics and state finance strategies
on public high school graduation rate in the 1990s
Regression coefficient
Unstand. Standard.
Percent poverty 0.063 0.025
Percent African-American 0.774 0.803
Percent Hispanic 1.222 1.103 *
Percent other minorities -5.356 -5.366 ***
Enrollment when the cohort was ninth grade 0.000 0.262
Percent of population with bachelor?s degree or higher -0.310 -0.151 **
Tax rate (=state tax collection/personal income) 0.100 0.015
Per student K-12 expenditures ($/1,000) two years prior -0.003 -0.027
Per-FTE need-based grant amount ($/1,000) two years prior 0.031 0.094
Per-FTE non-need grant amount ($/1,000) two years prior -0.061 -0.097 **
Undergrad in-state tuition and fees for public system
($/1,000) two years prior -0.321 -0.371 ***
Adjusted R square 0.933
N 200
P-value for F test that all ui=031 0.000
Note: *** p Sig.
28
This analysis addresses questions about the
influence of a state?s demographic composition on
high school graduates. The fixed-effects approach
controls for specific state contexts in a set of
uncoded variables for the state. When this
approach is used, the education level of the
population has a substantially different effect on
high school graduation rates than we would expect
from research on academic preparation. This result
suggests that further research is needed on the
effects of school reform policies on high school
graduation rates.
Tuition charges and state grants, both measured
two years prior to graduation, also had an influence
on high school graduation rates. Both tuition
charges and non-need grants were negatively
associated with high school graduation rates.34
Need-based grants were not significant, but had a
positive association with high school graduation
rates.35 Higher need-based grants had a positive
association with high school graduation rates,36
while higher merit-based grants were negatively
associated with graduation rates. This statistical
association may have occurred because students
with low grades believe they cannot afford to
attend college in their states if they do not
maintain the grade point requirements necessary to
attain merit-based grants.
29
Appendix 3: Ordinary least squares regressions
This appendix presents the ordinary least squares (OLS) regression for high school graduation rates
(Table 3.1) and college enrollment rates (Table 3.2). These tables are provided for comparison purposes and
are discussed in the text and end notes.
Sig. Regression coefficient
Unstand. Standard.
Percent poverty -0.206 -0.081
Percent African-American -0.612 -0.634 ***
Percent Hispanic -0.416 -0.375 ***
Percent other minorities -0.118 -0.118 **
Enrollment when the cohort was ninth grade -0.000 -0.063
Percent of population with bachelor?s degree or higher 0.274 -0.134 **
Tax rate (=state tax collection/personal income) 0.241 0.037
Per student K-12 expenditures ($/1,000) two years prior -0.013 -0.129 *
Per-FTE need-based grant amount ($/1,000) two years prior 0.102 0.311 ***
Per-FTE non-need grant amount ($/1,000) two years prior -0.060 -0.097 **
Undergrad in-state tuition and fees for public system
($/1,000) two years prior -0.039 -0.045
Adjusted R square 0.630
N 200
Note: *** p Table 3.1. OLS regression: The influence of population characteristics and state finance strategies on
public high school graduation rate in the 1990s
30
Table 3.2. OLS regression: The influence of population characteristics and state finance strategies on
college enrollment rate in the 1990s
Regression coefficient
Unstand. Standard.
Percent poverty -0.206 -0.081
Percent African-American -0.612 -0.634 ***
Percent Hispanic -0.416 -0.375 ***
Percent other minorities -0.118 -0.118 **
Enrollment when the cohort was ninth grade -0.000 -0.063
Percent of population with bachelor?s degree or higher 0.274 -1.134 **
Tax rate (=state tax collection/personal income) 0.241 0.037
Per student K-12 expenditures ($/1,000) two years prior -0.013 -0.129 *
Per-FTE need-based grant amount ($/1,000) two years prior 0.102 0.311 ***
Per-FTE non-need grant amount ($/1,000) two years prior -0.060 -0.097 **
Undergrad in-state tuition and fees for public system
($/1,000) two years prior -0.039 -0.045
Adjusted R square 0.630
N 200
Note: *** p Sig.
31
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35
1 The term ?non-need? is used for merit and
other specially directed grants that do not use
financial need for eligibility.
2 In the ordinary least squares analysis, needbased
grants had a significant and positive
association with graduation rates. These
relationships are confounded by the use of
state context variables in the fixed-effects
analysis.
3 The measurement of the impact of social
variables (i.e., parents? education and income)
on educational attainment is rooted in
sociological theory and research (Alexander &
Eckland, 1974, 1977, 1978; Blau & Duncan,
1967) and recent studies that examine social
capital formation (Ellwood & Kane, 2000;
Hearn, 2001; Steelman & Powell, 1993).
4 This study tested the use of both poverty rates
and income per capita. However, the two
variables were highly correlated, therefore
poverty rate was used as a predictor because it
related more directly to the financial access
issues that were of concern in this report. In
addition, since tax rate was used in the
analyses, we had an additional statistical
control for the influence of wealth. In response
to inquiries from reviewers of an earlier version
of this analysis, the study team also tested the
use of unemployment rates as a predictor
Endnotes

variable. However, as expected, unemployment
was very highly correlated with poverty rate;
therefore, it was not included in the final
model.
5 This study controls for the influence of school
funding, but not school reform policies. High
school graduation rates dropped during the
1990s, a period during which more stringent
requirements were implemented. Therefore, to
fully assess the impact of school funding on
graduation rates, it would also be necessary to
examine the impact of school reform policies.
6 In earlier analyses the research team had
developed separate analyses of enrollment rates
in public two-year colleges, public four-year
colleges, private colleges and colleges in other
states. The project advisory committee
suggested modifying the base access model to
consider the role of system complexity, as an
alternative to presenting a larger number of
statistical models. In particular, Laura Perna
was helpful in conceptualizing the role of
system capacity in the access models presented
in the paper.
7 The early analyses included an analysis of the
impact of state financial strategies on the
percentage of high school graduates who
enroll out of state. These analyses will be
published separately, along with the analyses of
36
the impact of state financial strategies on the
distribution of high school graduates within
state systems.
8 The OLS regressions provide a useful set of
analyses for comparison purposes. The endnotes
are used to provide comments on the
OLS regressions in comparisons to the fixedeffect
regressions.
9 Dresch (1975) was among the first to critique
simulations that used price response measures
to predict the effects of changes in policy on
enrollment. Although there was a substantial
effort after Dresch?s critique to improve the
methods used to standardize price response
measures (Jackson & Weathersby, 1975; Leslie
& Brinkman, 1988; McPherson, 1978), these
analyses did not overcome the logical
problems identified by Dresch. St. John (1993,
1994a, 2003) has systematically tested Dresch?s
assumptions, which hold up well. The
simulation methods used in this paper carry
these efforts to the next step by using a
specially assembled state database to examine
the effects of state grants and to simulate the
impact of alternative methods of awarding
grants.
10 The analyses in Table 2 and Appendix 2 used a
fixed-effects regression. Appendix 3 presents
the OLS regression for the same model.
Comparisons between the two models are
made in endnotes.
11 There is a substantial body of research to
indicate that access by low-income students is
directly affected by changes in need-based aid
(see reviews by Heller [1997] and St. John
[2003]).
12 The readers are reminded that since this
analysis considers the population that has
graduated from high school, it controls for a
minimum level of academic preparation.
Further, high school graduation is an appropriate
measure of preparation for enrollment in
community colleges. While federal aid policies,
including need-based and non-need grants,
vary over time with changes in enrollment
rates, especially for low-income students (St.
John, 2003), they cannot be used to examine
the effects of state finances. Since federal
programs have consistent award criteria across
the states, Pell grants and other federal aid do
not substantially vary across states within
years.
13 One difference between the OLS regression
and the fixed-effects regression is that the
percentage of African-Americans in the
population was positively associated with
enrollment in the OLS regression. The positive
effects noted in the OLS analyses were related
to state contexts. Most states with larger
percentages of African-Americans in their
populations have historically black colleges
and universities (HBCUs) in their public
systems. The presence of HBCUs is one
possible explanation for this statistical artifact.
14 The findings were similar in the OLS analysis.
15 In addition, non-need grants were not
significant in the OLS model.
16 Need-based grants are efficient, not only
because of the statistical significance, but also
because they cost less than direct subsidies to
institutions that benefit all students, by holding
down tuition.
17 While it is conceivable that economies could
be maintained by constraining expenditures, it
is difficult to reduce expenditures in research
universities that compete nationally for the top
faculty. For a full discussion of approaches for
coordinating public finance strategies see St.
John (2003).
18 Price (2003) also recommends an alternative
hybrid policy of federal/state coordination that
includes an increase in the Pell Grant linked to
additional state grants and/or a specific level of
public tuitions. See Borrowing inequality: race,
class and student loans. Boulder, CO; Lynne
Rienner Publishers.
19 This proposal adapts and simplifies the twotier
grant strategy proposed by St. John
(2003). The initial proposal recommended
setting the maximum of the base grant at half
37
the average cost of attending a low-cost public
college and limiting the second tier to twice
the first tier as a cost-control strategy. The
proposal in this paper sets the maximum for
the base grant at room and board, which would
equal about half of total cost. The second tier
in this proposal would not be limited. Rather, it
would depend on market and political forces to
limit increases (in both prices and grants).
20 The maximum award could be higher for
private colleges, depending on state priorities.
However, the minimum priority should be to
coordinate public tuition charges with needbased
grants.
21 A similar approach for private college grants
has been used in Indiana, a state that made
substantial gains in access in the 1990s (St.
John, Musoba, Simmons, & Chung, 2002).
22 The study team used IPEDS, along with data
reported annually by Tom Mortenson in
Postsecondary Education Opportunity
newsletter and available from
postsecondary.org. Using NCES data,
Mortenson calculated college continuation
rates by state based on the number of high
school graduates from the Current Population
Survey of the Census Bureau and college
freshmen from the IPEDS Fall Enrollment.
23 It was frequently necessary to sum information
for campuses and states across different IPEDS
data files in order to develop appropriate
indicators.
24 Education revenues and expenditures as well as
state appropriations were considered in
preliminary analyses but not included in the
final model.
25 College tuition charges in public colleges were
weighted for each state to reflect the actual
pattern of enrollment in the state. The number
of undergraduates enrolling in each public
college was multiplied by the undergraduate
in-state tuition charge for the college, then
these numbers were summed and divided by
the total number of undergraduates enrolling in
the state. This weighted tuition charge reflects
the composition of enrollment in the state.
26 These indicators were generally available as
state averages. We generated these indicators
by abstracting information from generally
available sources, which did not require the
extensive reanalysis necessary to work with the
cumbersome IPEDS databases.
27 We also examined other possible indicators
related to state economic conditions, including
unemployment rates and income per capita.
28 This variable provides a logical control for the
influence of parents? education. There is a high
correlation between the percentage of high
school students in a state whose parents
attended college and the percentage of the
population with a four-year degree or higher.
We also tested the inclusions of a variable for
the percent of the population with at least a
high school diploma and/or some college.
Including this variable had no discernible effect
on the results, so it was left out of the final
model.
29 Fixed-effects regression provides the appropriate
method of analysis given the fact that
multiple years (or a time series) are included in
the data set. The fixed-effects method provides
a means of controlling for the state context.
Don Heller, a member of the advisory
committee, consulted with the research team
on the selection of a regression method.
30 Appendix 3 provides the ordinary least squares
regression tables for comparison with the
fixed-effects regression reported in Table 2
(Page 11) and Table 2.2 (Page 27).
31 The null hypothesis of the F test is that the
state-specific, fixed-effect terms are all zeros.
The fixed-effect model can be judged to be
significantly different from the OLS model
when we reject the null hypothesis.
32 Jacob (2001) and Berger & Coelen (2002) both
found that high school graduation rates were
negatively associated with high-stakes
graduation exams.
38
33 When the fixed-effects method of regression is
used, the analysis provides a coefficient for
each state. The data reported in the tables
suppress these individual state variables
because they have no meaning other than
providing a statistical control.
34 Non-need grants and tuition charges were
negatively associated with graduation rates in
the OLS analysis as well, even though tuition
charges were not significant.
35 In the OLS regression the need-based grant
amount was significant and positively associated
with high school graduation rates. This
means that state contexts reduce the measurable
effects of need-based grants.
36 These positive effects are illustrated in the
simulations presented in the paper.
About the authors
Edward P. St. John is a professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Indiana University. His
current research focuses on academic and financial access to higher education. His recent books include
Refinancing the College Dream: Access, Equal Opportunity, and Justice for Taxpayers (2003) and Reinterpreting
Urban School Reform (2003).
Choong-Geun Chung is a statistician at the Indiana Education Policy Center at Indiana University. His
research interests are statistical models for school reform, access and persistence in higher education, and
issues in minority representation in special education.
Glenda Droogsma Musoba is a policy analyst at the Indiana Education Policy Center and a doctoral
candidate in higher education at Indiana University. Her research interests include access and equity in
college admissions, student persistence and other social justice issues.
Ada B. Simmons is associate director of the Indiana Education Policy Center. Her research focuses on
school reform and college access. She holds a doctorate in higher education from Indiana University.
Ontario S. Wooden is a doctoral candidate in the higher education program at Indiana University and a
research associate at the Indiana Education Policy Center. His research interests include college access and
choice, higher education policy and finance, and multiculturalism and diversity in higher education.
Jesse Perez Mendez is a doctoral candidate in the higher education program at Indiana University and
served as a research associate at the Indiana Education Policy Center. His research interests include higher
education policy, education law, multicultural education, postsecondary access and state and federal
legislation involving education.
Unintended Consequences of Tuition Discounting
Jerry Sheehan Davis
May 2003
Following the Mobile Student; Can We Develop the
Capacity for a Comprehensive Database to Assess
Student Progression?
Peter T. Ewell, Paula R. Schild and Karen Paulson
April 2003
Meeting the Access Challenge: Indiana?s
Twenty-first Century Scholars Program
Edward P. St. John, Glenda Droogsma Musoba,
Ada B. Simmons and Choong-Geun Chung
August 2002
Unequal Opportunity: Disparities in College
Access Among the 50 States
Samuel M. Kipp III, Derek V. Price and Jill K. Wohlford
January 2002
Hope Works: Student use of
Education Tax Credits
Barbara A. Hoblitzell and Tiffany L. Smith
November 2001
Learning in the Fast Lane: Adult Learners? Persistence
and Success in Accelerated College Programs
Raymond J. Wlodkowski, Jennifer E. Mauldin
and Sandra W. Gahn
August 2001
Debts and Decisions: Student Loans and Their
Relationship to Graduate School and Career Choice
Donald E. Heller
June 2001
Funding the ?Infostructure:? A Guide to Financing
Technology Infrastructure in Higher Education
Jane V. Wellman and Ronald A. Phipps
April 2001
Discounting Toward Disaster: Tuition
Discounting, College Finances, and Enrollments
of Low-Income Undergraduates
Kenneth E. Redd
December 2000
Also available from Lumina Foundation for Education

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College Affordability: Overlooked Long-Term
Trends and Recent 50-State Patterns
Jerry Sheehan Davis
November 2000
HBCU Graduates:
Employment, Earnings and Success After College
Kenneth E. Redd
August 2000
Student Debt Levels Continue to Rise
Stafford Indebtedness: 1999 Update
Patricia M. Scherschel
June 2000
Presidential Essays: Success Stories ?
Strategies that Make a Difference at
Thirteen Independent Colleges and Universities
Allen P. Splete, Editor
March 2000
Are College Students Satisfied?
A National Analysis of Changing Expectations
Lana Low
February 2000
Fifty Years of Innovations in Undergraduate Education:
Change and Stasis in the Pursuit of Quality
Gary H. Quehl, William H. Bergquist and Joseph L. Subbiondo
October 1999
Cost, Price and Public Policy:
Peering into the Higher Education Black Box
William L. Stringer, Alisa F. Cunningham, with
Jamie P. Merisotis, Jane V. Wellman and Colleen T. O?Brien
August 1999
Student Indebtedness:
Are Borrowers Pushing the Limits?
Patricia M. Scherschel
November 1998
It?s All Relative: The Role of Parents in
College Financing and Enrollment
William L. Stringer, Alisa F. Cunningham,
Colleen T. O?Brien and Jamie P. Merisotis
October 1998
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Lumina Foundation for Education
Research Reports are published periodically by
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Indianapolis, IN 46206-1806
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Copyright ? 2004
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February 2004 (2)
RESEARCH REPORT

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