Higher Education

Article excerpt

The NBER's Project on Higher Education, directed by NBER Research Associate Charles T. Clotfelter of Duke University, met in Cambridge on May 1. The program was:

Christopher Avery and Andrew Fairbanks, Harvard University; and Richard J. Zeckhauser, NBER and Harvard University, "An Assessment of Early Admissions Programs at Highly Selective Undergraduate Institutions"

Discussant: Sandra Baum, Skidmore College

Charles T. Clotfelter, "Alumni Giving to Private Colleges and Universities"

Discussant: Gordon Winston, Williams College

Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, NBER and Harvard University, "The Shaping of Higher Education in the United States, 1890 to 1940: Industrial Organization and Political Economy in the Formative Years" (NBER Working Paper No. 6537)

Discussant: Malcolm Getz, Vanderbilt University

Scott E. Masten, University of Michigan, "Commitment and Political Governance: Why Universities, Like Legislatures, Are Not Organized as Markets"

Discussant: Andrew Dick, University of Rochester

Roger G. Noll, Stanford University, "The American Research University" Discussant: Caroline M Hoxby, NBER and Harvard University

Avery, Fairbanks, and Zeckhauser report that early admission procedures have evolved over decades to facilitate colleges' enrollment planning and to provide some students with early assurance of admission. At the most selective schools, early admissions procedures have become more formal and more binding over time. These procedures also have grown in importance; it is now common for a college to fill 25 percent to 50 percent of its incoming class with early applicants. Preliminary results from their analysis of applicant record data from 10 highly selective colleges over 6 years suggest that qualified applicants significantly increase their chances of admission by applying early.

Using data from the College and Beyond survey, which focuses on students who entered one of a sample of institutions in the falls of 1951, 1976, and 1989, Clotfelter examines the size, distribution, and composition of alumni giving. Contributions by these former students tend to be concentrated, with half of all donations being given by the most generous 1 percent of the sample. Higher levels of contributions are associated with income and the degree of satisfaction with one's undergraduate experience, with satisfaction in turn being a function of particular aspects of that experience.

Goldin and Katz report that 1890 to 1940 - long before the rise of federal funding, the G.I. Bill, and mass higher education - was a formative period for the American university. The scale and scope of American institutions of higher education increased, the research university blossomed, states vastly increased their funding of higher education, and the public sector expanded relative to the private sector. …