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School Voucher Recipients More Likely to Enroll in College, New Study Finds

Posted on Thursday August 23, 2012 | National

New research shows significant increase in college enrollment for African American students

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 23, 2012)—A new study released today by researchers at the Brookings Institution and Harvard University shows that African American participants in a private school choice program were 24 percent more likely to enroll in college as a result of receiving a voucher, reinforcing previously-released data showing improved graduation rates, parental satisfaction, and academic achievement among voucher students.

The American Federation for Children—the nation’s voice for school choice—praised the findings, which tracked voucher students in New York City over a nearly 15-year period. The research also shows that African American enrollment rates in selective colleges more than doubled among voucher students, and the rate of enrollment in full-time colleges increased by a remarkable 31 percent.

The study, which represents one of the longest-term measurements of school outcomes among voucher recipients, is also the first study to use a randomized experiment to measure the impact of school vouchers on college enrollment.

“Once again, the evidence clearly shows that putting all educational options on the table pays dividends for the students, both now and in the long-term,” said Kevin P. Chavous, a senior advisor to the Federation. “This research makes clear the life-changing affect receiving a voucher can have on a child, and should be a signal to folks across the country that we need to bring more choice to the communities most in need. It is both a moral and an economic imperative that we do so.”

Data for the newly-released analysis was drawn from an evaluation of a New York City voucher program that operated in the late 1990s and granted scholarships to low-income students to attend the private school of their parents’ choice. The New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program served more than 2,600 students, almost all of whom participated in the study.

The results, which were presented today at an event at the Brookings Institution in Washington, are the latest evidence of the success of private school choice programs. The data is consistent with the results of a 2010 study of the D.C. voucher program by the Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences that found voucher participants graduate at a rate of 91 percent—more than 30 percentage points higher than students who stayed in the public schools.

Similar studies showing increased achievement and parental satisfaction have been conducted in Milwaukee, Florida, and Louisiana.

The gold standard study was authored by renowned school choice researcher Paul E. Peterson, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Matthew M. Chingos, a fellow at Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Full findings of the study can be downloaded here.