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Research Projects

Current Research Projects

Leveling the Playing Field for High School Choice Through Informational Tools: A Randomized Intervention Study
Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, Jennifer Jennings, Sean Corcoran & Sarah Cohodes, co-Principal Investigators
(Funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Heckscher Foundation for Children, and the Smith-Richardson Foundation)

This multi-year study examines the efficacy of providing informational interventions to eighth grade students required to choose high schools through New York City's compulsory high school admissions policy.  Now in its third year, 370 New York City middle schools have received interventions as part of the study, and interviews have been conducted with over 300 students, parents and school personnel involved in high school admissions.

Understanding Student Transportation in Choice-Rich Cities
Coordinated by The Urban Institute Income and Benefits Policy Center
Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj (SHU research team member)

This cross-city comparative study examines student transportation in five choice-rich cities: Denver, Detroit, New Orleans, New York City, and Washington DC. The project will explore existing transportation policies, modes of transport, and geographic distribution of high quality schools in order to identify the role that transportation may play in either enhancing or obstructing equitable access to educational opportunities.

Using National Data to Understand Students' College Application and Enrollment Behaviors and the Role of Schools, Peers and Family in these Decisions
Dr. Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj and Dr. Rong Chen, Principal Investigators

This project uses data from the Educational Longitudinal Study to examine the college application and enrollment behaviors decisions of high school students and the influence of school context as well as peers and family involvement in them. In our first paper, we analyze the role of students' college preparatory behaviors (e.g. information-seeking) at different points in time and school context factors in predicting their likelihood of applying to 4-year colleges. We find that the timing of students' engagement in certain activities matters for their likelihood of applying to 4-year colleges and there may be large penalties associated with not engaging in any of these college preparatory activities. The next paper in progress measures the significance of different dimensions of a high school's college-going culture for promoting application to 4-year colleges. A third paper in development will examine distinct aspect of social closure (school college-going norms, peer aspirations, parent involvement) and the significance of each of them for promoting college-going among diverse students.

The Accountability Landscape in American Higher Education
Dr. Robert Kelchen
This project (currently a draft book under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press) provides a comprehensive overview of the various accountability pressures that colleges and universities face from a variety of stakeholders.

Do Performance-Based Funding Policies Affect Low-Income Student Enrollment and College Prices?
Dr. Robert Kelchen
A growing number of states are funding their public colleges in part based on whether they meet designated outcome metrics, but there are concerns that these systems encourage colleges to become more selective. In this project, I am examining whether the presence of performance funding systems affects how many low-income students public colleges enroll and the prices they face.

Response to Federal Loan Policy Changes: Examination of the Bennett Hypothesis in Professional School Prices
Dr. Robert Kelchen
The Bennett Hypothesis, which postulates that colleges raise their prices in response to the availability of federal financial aid, is hotly debated in policy circles with mixed findings at the undergraduate level. In this project, I am exploring whether the expansion of federal student loans to cover the full price of attending professional programs led colleges to increase prices for law, medical, and business degrees.

Past Research Projects

Matching Students to Post-Secondary Opportunities: How College Choice is Influenced by Institutional, State, and Federal Policy
Dr. Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, Dr. Jessica Howell, and Andrew Kelly.
The match between a student's abilities and interests and their choice of college undoubtedly impacts their likelihood of success. Moving this discussion forward requires a broader conception of college match to include the full spectrum of students and institutions, consideration of supply-side constraints, and acknowledgement of how institutional, state, and federal policies shape the opportunities available to students across the academic continuum. To that end, we commissioned a set of eight research papers that grapple with these important, understudied questions. In particular, the papers take stock of how the research on college match has evolved over the past decade; examine alternate definitions and measures of college match; consider match across the range of academic qualifications and institution types; and take a close look at the supply-side issues associated with college match-the incentives facing postsecondary institutions and the government policies that influence college choice. Targeted to policymakers, researchers, and institutional professionals, these papers, which were first presented at a special conference on college matching held in August 2015 in Washington, DC, were published in an edited volume, Matching Students to Opportunity: Expanding College Choice, Access and Quality (Harvard Education Press, 2016). This book serves as a timely addition to the public policy discussions on college match. This project is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Center for College Readiness and the College Board.

A Longitudinal Analysis of Student Fees: The Roles of States and Institutions (2014-2015)
Robert Kelchen, P.I.
This study examines the rapid growth of student fees in public higher education over the last 15 years, as well as whether some of the growth can be attributed to the practices and policies of colleges or states.

Do Financial Responsibility Scores Affect Institutional Behaviors? (2014-2015)
Robert Kelchen, P.I.
This study examines whether students, colleges, or potential donors at private nonprofit and for-profit colleges respond to a low financial responsibility score assigned by the U.S. Department of Education.

Blueprint for School System Reform (2011-2013)
Dr. Frederick Hess & Dr. Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, co-P.I.s
Team of national experts brought together to study the persistent failure of education reform efforts in the city of Milwaukee and develop an actionable, integrated plan that addresses the major elements necessary for system transformation (funded by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute). The results of this work were published in the edited volume, Blueprint for school system transformation: A vision for comprehensive reform in Milwaukee and beyond (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013).

Issues of Equity and Access with High School Choice (2009-2014)
Dr. Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, P.I.
Mixed methods study of low-income immigrant-origin Latino students' experiences with New York City's mandatory high school choice process. See Unaccompanied Minors: Immigrant Youth, School Choice and the Pursuit of Equity Harvard Education Press, 2014) for the results of this study

Replication of the PHAT (Promoting Health Among Teams) Program (2011-2015)
Dr. Elaine Walker with Dr. Nanci Coppola, P.I. Program Reach Inc. Bronx, NY
Evaluation study to examine the replication of a successful abstinence-only curriculum among sixth and seventh grade students attending private and public schools in Yonkers using randomized-control trial (Funded by the U.S. Office of Adolescent Health: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

Theater Arts Integration Project (2011-2015)
Dr. Elaine Walker with Nancy Healey, P.I. Jersey City Public Schools, New Jersey
Evaluation study to determine through randomized trials the effects of integrating theatre arts on second and third graders language arts development (Funded by the U.S. Department of Education).

Issues of Equity and Access with High School Choice (2009-2014)
Dr. Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, P.I.
Mixed methods study of low-income immigrant-origin Latino students' experiences with New York City's mandatory high school choice process. See Unaccompanied Minors: Immigrant Youth, School Choice and the Pursuit of Equity (Harvard Education Press, 2014) for the results of this study