Study Abroad Participation: An Unintended Consequence of State Merit-Aid Programs?

Abstract

This study employs difference-in-differences estimation to explore the relationship between the implementation of state merit-aid programs and students’ participation in study abroad. The relationship between implementation of these financial aid programs and study abroad participation has not been tested explicitly in prior policy or education abroad literatures. While state merit-aid programs provide students with additional economic capital that might allow them to participate in educational opportunities such as study abroad, other aspects of merit-aid programs could discourage such engagement. Indeed, analyses of a panel dataset consisting of information from all 50 states suggested either no relationship between the implementation of merit-aid programs and study abroad or a situation wherein merit-aid implementation tempers students’ desires or abilities to study abroad. These findings may be the result of certain characteristics of merit-aid policies, such as a cap on the number of credit hours for which scholarship funds can be awarded or satisfactory academic progress requirements, and have important implications for state policy-makers and institutional actors. This study highlights several directions for future research on the relationship between state-level merit-aid programs and undergraduate participation in education abroad.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Note that in years 2001–2004, study abroad numbers were only available for institutions sending ten or more students abroad. While institutions reporting a low number of students studying abroad lack data about the specific number of participants in these years, in 2001, 2003, and 2004, IIE does provide information about how many institutions belong to this fewer-than-ten group. In these 3 years, these institutions comprise 28%, 21%, and 19% of reporting institutions, respectively. In each year, approximately half of the fewer-than-ten institutions belonged to the treatment (merit aid) group and half belonged to the control (no merit aid) group. Given this fairly even distribution among treatment and control groups, and assuming that the distribution of institutions was similar in 2002, these missing data likely do not affect estimates very much.

  2. 2.

    An additional placebo test was conducted using 1990 as the fake implementation year. This analysis yielded similar results to the placebo test discussed in the text of this article and as such is not included here. Results are available upon request.

  3. 3.

    Note that propensity score weights were re-estimated for each robustness check to reflect the specific data subset employed.

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Acknowledgements

The author thanks Manuel González Canché, Erik Ness, Amy Stich, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.

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Correspondence to Melissa Whatley.

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Whatley, M. Study Abroad Participation: An Unintended Consequence of State Merit-Aid Programs?. Res High Educ 60, 905–930 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-018-09540-w

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Keywords

  • Study abroad
  • State merit aid
  • Financial aid
  • State policy