Widening participation in higher education. Policies and institutional settings: cross-country perspectives and an empirical analysis of Chile
Author(s)Uribe Jorquera, DA
KeywordsHigher education, Inequality, Access, Persistence and dropout, Chilean higher education, Higher education reform, Quantitative methods, Impact evaluation
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AbstractIn the last three decades, Higher Education (HE) has experienced an unprecedented expansion worldwide. In many countries, governments have transferred the cost of HE from taxpayers to individuals and households as a means of increasing the provision on a financially sustainable basis. Most policies have attempted to address the issue of low-income students’ participation by setting student aid policies for those unable to afford HE costs. Nonetheless, the starting point of this thesis is that the goal of equity in HE should not begin with, or be confined to, HE policy but must address school education as well. I investigate the effect of the socioeconomic distribution of school achievement on HE enrolment rates in a cross-country framework. I find a mild but statistically significant negative association suggesting that the more school achievement is determined by socioeconomic factors, the less participation in HE is observed. Next, I evaluate the impact of a reform to the student aid system in Chile using household surveys and regression-based and differences-in-differences evaluation techniques. I find the reform increased the probability of access of low-income students to HE by 6 percentage points, or 20 per cent in proportional terms. After having researched the effects of inequality of school achievement, I focus on the design of student aid and its effect on persistence and dropout. In particular, I investigate the level of harshness of different aid programmes and its effect on students’ persistence, completion, and dropout rates. By specifying a logistic multinomial model, I compare the effect of two loan programmes, an incomecontingent loan and a mortgage-type, bank-managed, government-guaranteed loan. The harsher, mortgage-type loan was associated with increased persistence and higher completion rates but no difference in dropout rates. Nonetheless, this association was only observable for low-income students; loan harshness made no difference in completion rates for better-off students. In other words, harsher loans seem to be a deterrent only for poor students. This introduces an ethical dilemma: although harsher aid may be more effective, should student aid be disproportionately putting pressure on the poorest students? However, this may in turn reflect poor student’s relative higher ability rather than a differential deterrent effect.