The Returns to College Admission for Academically Marginal Students

Tyler Cowen

I combine a regression discontinuity design with rich data on academic and labor market outcomes for a large sample of Florida students to estimate the returns to college admission for academically marginal students. Students with grades just above a threshold for admissions eligibility at a large public university in Florida are much more likely to attend any university than below-threshold students. The marginal admission yields earnings gains of 22% between 8 and 14 years after high school completion. These gains outstrip the costs of college attendance, and they are largest for male students and free-lunch recipients