Richard Li, an economics major in Belmont’s Jack C. Massey College of Business, recently attended and presented a paper titled “Effects of Tuition-Free Community College on Enrollment” at the Issues in Political Economy (IPE) 25th Undergraduate Research Conference in Economics. The 2018 conference was held at the Eastern Economic Association Annual Meetings in Boston from March 1 to 4. The conference brings together economists and undergraduates from across the country to present and share research with peers. Students also serve as session chairs and discussants.
With the establishment of the Tennessee Promise scholarship program in fall 2015, Tennessee became the first state to offer tuition-free education to all high school graduates attending in-state community colleges full-time. Past studies of the relationship between college enrollment and financial aid have focused on the effects of either need-based grants or merit-based scholarships on college enrollment. The Tennessee Promise scholarship program intends to increase the proportion of its population with postsecondary degrees, especially among at-risk groups. In his paper, Li exploits the exogenous change in the cost of two-year university tuition in a difference-in-differences model to quantify the causal impact of the program on college enrollment. Findings indicate that the program has led to increases in full-time college enrollment rate of 18- and 1- year-olds by 2.1 to 3.7 percent. These results are heterogeneous across racial and income groups.
Early contributions to the paper came from fellow students Claire Gillman, Ashton Bellenfant and Angela Clark. Richard was accompanied at the conference by his research advisor and Belmont faculty member Dr. Colin Cannonier.