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Summaries of RCT Grants

RCTs investigating the near and medium-term impacts of behavioral nudge interventions to improve college entry and persistence among low-income students

This grant will fund two projects.

Grant recipient: The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia

Term: 2016 - 2017

Principal Investigator: Ben Castleman, Ph. D., University of Virginia

Funding: $105,192

Summary: This grant will fund two projects.

In the first project, the study team, in collaboration with The Common Application, will conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the impact of various text-messaging strategies to encourage student completion of college financial aid application forms, with a national sample of 350,000 economically-disadvantaged high school seniors. The Dell Foundation is the primary funder of the study. The total cost of the project is $695,000 (LJAF’s contribution is $60,000).

In the second project, the study team will measure the longer-term outcomes of three RCTs that evaluated various interventions to encourage economically-disadvantaged high school seniors to complete financial aid forms and other items needed for college matriculation. The RCTs are high-quality studies that found promising effects on short-term outcomes (e.g., college matriculation). Longer-term follow-up will be valuable to determine whether these effects are sustained over time and lead to more policy-important outcomes (e.g., college persistence and completion). The pre-specified analysis plans for the two projects are linked here and here.

This project has been completed. A plain-language summary of the findings is available here.


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