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EdPolicyWorks: Center for Education Policy and Workforce Competitiveness

With rapid technological transformations to the labor market along with COVID-19 related economic disruptions, many working adults return to college to obtain additional training or credentials. Using a comparative individual fixed effects strategy and an administrative panel dataset of enrollment and employment in Virginia, we provide the first causal estimates of credential “stacking” among working adults. 

Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, and a sizable share of these job losses may be permanent. Unemployment rates are particularly high among adults without a college degree. Recent state policy efforts h

The Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer generous education benefits to a dependent. We run a large scale experiment that encourages service members to consider the transfer option among a population that includes individuals for whom the transfer benefits are clear and individuals for whom the net-benefits are significantly more ambiguous. We find no impact of a one-time email about benefits transfer among service members for whom we predict considerable ambiguity in the action, but sizeable impacts among service members for whom education benefits transfer is far less ambiguous.

In recognition of the complexity of the college and financial aid application process, and in response to insufficient access to family or school-based counseling among economically-disadvantaged populations, investments at the local, state, and federal level have expanded students’ access to college and financial aid advising. Experimental and quasi-experimental studies of these programs demonstrate that they can generate substantial improvements in the rate at which low-income students enroll and persist in college.

Student loan borrowing for higher education has emerged as a top policy concern. Policy makers at the institutional, state, and federal levels have pursued a variety of strategies to inform students
about loan origination processes and how much a student has cumulatively borrowed, and to provide students with greater access to loan counseling.

Growing experimental evidence demonstrates that low-touch informational, nudge, and virtual advising interventions are ineffective at improving postsecondary educational outcomes for economically-disadvantaged students at scale. Intensive in-person college advising programs are a considerably higher-touch and more resource intensive strategy; some programs provide students with dozen of hours of individualized assistance starting in high school and continuing through college, and can cost thousands of dollars per student served.

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The impact of “credential stacking” among community college students had long been of interest to Batten’s Ben Castleman and his colleague Katharine Meyer, but they became even more curious about it during the pandemic.

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In one of the most abrupt upheavals in the history of American education, schools across the country have responded to COVID-19 by shifting to online instruction. How has this affected the millions of students now taking classes virtually? Batten professor Ben Castleman, along with his collaborators Gaby Lohner and Kelli Bird from the UVA School of Education and Human Development, will take on this question in the latest edition of Batten Expert Chats.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an abrupt shift from in-person to virtual instruction in Spring 2020. Using a difference-in-differences framework that leverages within-course variation on whether students started their Spring 2020 courses in person or online, we estimate the impact of this shift on the academic performance of Virginia’s community college students. We find that the shift to virtual instruction resulted in a 6.7 percentage point decrease in course completion, driven by increases in both course withdrawal and failure. Faculty experience teaching a course online did not mitigate the negative effects of moving to virtual instruction.