The Effects of Means-Tested Private School Choice Programs on College Enrollment and Graduation

Will Flanders:

Despite the efforts of Governor Tony Evers and Wisconsin Democrats to end school choice, the evidence continues to build on the positive effects of the program. The most recent evidence in a new study from the Urban Institute is arguably some of the most important so far.

Using rigorous research methods, the study found that students in Milwaukee’s school choice program are more likely to enroll in, and graduate from, four year colleges.

This study is a follow-on to the School Choice Demonstration Project that was commissioned by the state of Wisconsin in the mid 2000s. Researchers from the University of Arkansas tracked the progress of students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) along with a matched sample of students in traditional public schools. The matching method used here allows for the best measure of the true effect of an intervention outside of lotteries, which didn’t occur in Milwaukee.

There are two sets of results in the study, one for students that were in 9th grade at baseline and one for students who were in 3rd through 8th grade. Among 9th graders, effects were found on enrollment but not on graduation. Among 3rd through 8th graders, the study also found an effect on enrollment. They find that 50 percent of MPCP students in this group enrolled in college compared to 45 percent of Milwaukee Public Schools students. This difference was statistically significant.