Research in Higher Education

, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 18–43 | Cite as

Exploring the Effects of Tuition Increases on Racial/Ethnic Diversity at Public Colleges and Universities

  • Drew AllenEmail author
  • Gregory C. Wolniak
Original Article


As tuition becomes a more prominent tool to address financial challenges of colleges and universities, it is critically important to examine the implications of tuition increases on institutions and their students. The goal of this study is to examine the effects of tuition increases at public 4 year and community colleges on institutions’ racial/ethnic composition. The study addresses two primary research questions: What are the effects of tuition increases on racial/ethnic diversity at public institutions over time, and do the relationships between tuition increases and racial/ethnic diversity at 4 year institutions vary by institution selectivity? The study uses multivariate analyses with fixed effects models to estimate the relationship between observed changes in tuition and racial/ethnic diversity across U.S. public 4 and 2 year colleges and universities across a 14 year period. The standardized measure of institutional diversity we utilize allows us to consistently evaluate changes in overall racial/ethnic composition of enrolled students that enables comparisons across different institution types. Our findings suggest that tuition increases at open-access, non-selective public 4 year institutions are negatively and significantly associated with the racial/ethnic diversity of enrolled students. This same negative relationship can be seen among 2 year public institutions, and the effects are more pronounced in full-time, first-time freshmen as compared to the overall full-time campus population.


Tuition Diversity Enrollment Institution selectivity Public colleges Community colleges 


  1. Alon, S. (2009). The evolution of class inequality in higher education: Competition, exclusion, and adaptation. American Sociological Review, 74, 731–755.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alon, S., & Tienda, M. (2007). Diversity, opportunity, and the shifting meritocracy in higher education. American Sociological Review, 72, 487–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andrews, R., & Stange, K. (2016). Price regulation, price discrimination, and equality of opportunity in higher education: Evidence from Texas. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper 22901.Google Scholar
  4. Astin, A. W. (1993). Diversity and multiculturalism on the campus: How are students affected? Change, 23, 44–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baum, S., & Ma, J. (2013). Trends in college pricing. New York, NY: The College Board.Google Scholar
  6. Baum, S., & Ma, J. (2014). Trends in college pricing 2014. The College Board.
  7. Becker, G. S. (1993). Human Capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis with special reference to education (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boatman, A., Evans, B. J., & Soliz, A. (2017). Understanding loan aversion in education: Evidence from high school seniors, community college students, and adults. AERA Open, 3(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Callendar, C., & Jackson, J. (2005). Does the fear of debt deter students from higher education? Journal of Social Policy, 34, 509–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2011). The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education (2010 ed.) Menlo Park, CA: Author.Google Scholar
  11. Chang, M. J. (1999). Does racial diversity matter?; The educational impact of a racially diverse undergraduate population. Journal of College Student Development, 40(4), 377–395.Google Scholar
  12. Chang, M. J., Astin, A. W., & Kim, D. (2004). Cross-racial interaction among undergraduates: Some causes and consequences. Research in Higher Education, 45(5), 527–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chang, M. J., Denson, N., Saenz, V., & Misa, K. (2006). The educational benefits of sustaining cross-racial interaction among undergraduates. Journal of Higher Education, 77(3), 430–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clarke, C. G., & Antonio, A. L. (2012). Rethinking research on the impact of racial diversity in higher education. Review of Higher Education, 36(1), 25–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clotfelter, C. T. (2004). After Brown: The rise and retreat of school segregation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Cohn, E., & Geske, T. (1990). The economics of education (3rd ed.). New York: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  17. Conger, D., & Turner, L.J. (2015). The impact of tuition increases on undocumented college students’ attainment. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper 21135.Google Scholar
  18. Cunningham, A. F., & Santiago, D. (2008). Student aversion to borrowing: Who borrows and who doesn’t. Institute for Higher Education Policy and Excelencia in Education. December.Google Scholar
  19. Curs, B. R., & Jaquette, O. (2017). Crowded out? The effects of nonresident enrollment on resident access to public research universities. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 39, 644–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Delaney, J. A., & Doyle, W. R. (2011). State spending on higher education: testing the balance wheel over time. Journal of Education Finance, 36(4), 343–368.Google Scholar
  21. Denson, N., & Chang, M. J. (2009). Racial diversity matters: The impact of diversity-related student engagement and institutional context. American Educational Research Journal, 46(2), 322–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. DesJardins, S. L., & Bell, A. (2006). Using economic concepts to inform enrollment management. New Directions for Institutional Research, 132, 56–74.Google Scholar
  23. Do, C. (2004). The effects of local colleges on the quality of college attended. Economics of Education Review, 23(3), 249–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Drukker, D. M. (2003). Testing for serial correlation in linear panel-data models. Stata Journal, 3, 168–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dynarski, S. (2000). Hope for whom? Financial aid for the middle class and its impact on college attendance. National Tax Journal, 53(3), 629–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dynarski, S. (2003). Does aid matter? Measuring the effect of student aid on college attendance and completion. American Economic Review, 93(1), 279–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dynarski, S. (2008). Building the stock of college-educated labor. Journal of Human Resources, 43(3), 576–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dynarski, S. & Scott-Clayton, J. (2013). Financial aid policy: Lessons learned from research. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper 18710.Google Scholar
  29. Engberg, M. E., & Wolniak, G. C. (2014). An examination of the moderating effects of the high school socioeconomic context on college enrollment. The High School Journal, 97, 240–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Flores, S. M., & Shepherd, J. (2014). Pricing out the disadvantaged? The effects of tuition deregulation in Texas public four-year institutions. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 655(1), 99–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Goldrick-Rab, S. & Kelchen, R. (2013). Making sense of loan aversion: Evidence from Wisconsin. Paper prepared for the University of Michigan Conference on Student Loans.Google Scholar
  32. Goldrick-Rab, S., & Kinsley, P. (2013). School Integration and the Open Door Philosophy: Rethinking the Economic and Racial Composition of Community Colleges. New York: Century Foundation.Google Scholar
  33. Gurin, P., Dey, E. L., Hurtado, S., & Gurin, G. (2002). Diversity and higher education: theory and impact on educational outcomes. Harvard Educational Review, 72(3), 330–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hanushek, E. A., Kain, J. F., & Rivkin, S. G. (2009). New evidence of Brown v. Board of Education: The complex effects of school racial composition on achievement. Journal of Labor Economics, 27(3), 349–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Heller, D. E. (1997). Student price response in higher education: An update of Leslie and Brinkman. Journal of Higher Education, 68, 624–659.Google Scholar
  36. Hemelt, S. W., & Marcotte, D. E. (2011). The impact of tuition increases on enrollment at public colleges and universities. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33(4), 435–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Herring, C. (2009). Does diversity pay? Race, gender, and the business case for diversity. American Sociological Review, 74(2), 208–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hillman, N., & Weichman, T. (2016). Education Deserts: The Continued Significance of “Place” in the Twenty-First Century. Viewpoints: Voices from the Field. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.Google Scholar
  39. Hinrichs, P. (2013). An Empirical Analysis of Racial Segregation in Higher Education. Paper presented at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, Fall Conference November 8–10, Baltimore, MD.Google Scholar
  40. Hossler, D., Bontrager, B, & Associates. (2015). Handbook of Strategic Enrollment Management. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  41. Hoxby, C. M. (1997). How the changing market structure of U.S. higher education explains college tuition. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper 6323.Google Scholar
  42. Hoxby, C. M. (2009). The changing selectivity of American colleges. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper 15446.Google Scholar
  43. Kane, T. J. (1995). Rising public college tuition and college entry: How well do public subsidies promote access to college? National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper 5164.Google Scholar
  44. Kincheloe, J. L., & McLaren, P. L. (1994). Rethinking critical theory and qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 138–157). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  45. Leslie, L. L., & Brinkman, P. T. (1987). Student price response in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 58, 181–204.Google Scholar
  46. Lieberson, S. (1969). Measuring population diversity. American Sociological Review, 34(6), 850–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Luo, W., & Qi, Y. (2009). An enhanced two-step floating catchment area (E2SFCA) method for measuring spatial accessibility to primary care physicians. Health & Place, 15, 1100–1107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ma, J., Baum, S., Pender, M., & Welch, M. (2016). Trends in College Pricing 2016. The College Board.
  49. Mayhew, M. J., Rockenbach, A. N., Bowman, N. A., Seifert, T. A., & Wolniak, G. C. (2016). How college affects students: 21st century evidence that higher education works. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  50. McGrail, M. R., & Humphreys, J. S. (2009). The index of rural access: an innovative integrated approach for measuring primary care access. BMC Health Services Research, 9(1), 124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Meyer, P., & McIntosh, S. (1992). The USA Today index of ethnic diversity. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 4(1), 56–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Milem, J. F. (2003). The educational benefits of diversity: Evidence from multiple sectors. In M. J. Chang, D. Witt, J. Jones, & K. Hakuta (Eds.), Compelling Interest: Examining the Evidence on Racial Dynamics in Colleges and Universities (pp. 126–169). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Mulder, C. H., & Clark, W. A. (2002). Leaving home for college and gaining independence. Environment and Planning, 34(6), 981–999.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Page, L. C., & Scott-Clayton, J. (2016). Improving college access in the United States: Barriers and policy responses. Economics of Education Review, 51, 4–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Paulsen, M. B. (2001). The economics of the public sector: The nature and role of public policy in the finance of higher education. In M. B. Paulsen & J. C. Smart (Eds.), The finance of higher education: Theory, research, policy & practice (pp. 95–132). New York, NY: Agathon Press.Google Scholar
  56. Paulsen, M. B., & St. John, E. P. (2002). Social class and college costs: Examining the financial nexus between college choice and persistence. The Journal of Higher Education, 73(2), 189–236.Google Scholar
  57. Perna, L. W. (2006). Understanding the relationship between information about college costs and financial aid and students’ college-related behaviors. American Behavioral Scientist, 49, 1620–1635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Perna, L. W., Steele, P., Woda, S., & Hibbert, T. (2005). State public policies and the racial/ethnic stratification of college access and choice in the state of Maryland. The Review of Higher Education, 28(2), 254–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schmidt, P. (2017, August 3). Trump May Find No Easy Targets if He Attacks Race in Admissions. Chronicle of Higher Education.
  60. Simpson, E. H. (1949). Measurement of diversity. Nature, 163, 688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Smith, K., & Bers, T. H. (1989). Parents and the college choice decisions of community college students. College and University, 64, 335–348.Google Scholar
  62. Snyder T. D., de Brey C., & Dillow S. A. (2016). Digest of education statistics 2014 (NCES 2016-006). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.Google Scholar
  63. Stage, F. K. (2007). Answering critical questions using quantitative data. New Directions for Higher Education, 133, 5–16.Google Scholar
  64. Tienda, M. (2013). Diversity ≠ inclusion: Promoting integration in higher education. Educational Researcher, 42(9), 467–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Toutkoushian, R. K., & Paulsen, M. B. (2016). Economics of Higher Education: Background, Concepts, and Applications. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Turley, R. N. L. (2009). College proximity: Mapping access to opportunity. Sociology of Education, 82(2), 126–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Umbach, P. D., & Kuh, G. D. (2007). Student experiences with diversity at liberal arts colleges: Another claim for distinctiveness. The Journal of Higher Education, 77(1), 169–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Weiler, W. C. (1994). Transition from consideration of a college to the decision to apply. Research in Higher Education, 35, 631–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wooldridge, J. M. (2002). Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  70. Zinth, K., & Smith, M. (2012). Tuition-setting authority for public colleges and universities. Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations