How does information on the net benefits of college affect the demand for higher education in a developing country? – Bogotá, Colombia (2013)
Leonardo Bonilla, Nicolas Bottan, and I received a research grant from the Department of Economics at the University of Illinois to study whether providing information on the benefits and costs of college to Colombian students affects their higher education enrollment choices. Recent research has shown that imperfect information and incorrect beliefs may affect how individuals make educational choices, especially among the poor. We test the relevance of this problem for public school students deciding whether to attend college in Bogotá, Colombia.
We interviewed 6,600 students in 115 schools at two points in 2013: baseline in March and follow-up in August. At baseline, 58 schools were randomly selected to receive an informational talk. Students in these treatment schools first filled out a survey and then listened to a talk by local university graduates, who provided the average salaries of completing college by major and institution as well as available funding programs to pay for college. They also received a leaflet summarizing the main points of the talk. Students in the remaining 57 schools only responded the survey. In our follow-up, we visited the same schools only to collect responses from a second survey.
Our results show that providing information on the benefits and costs of college does not raise higher education enrollment rates among public school students in Colombia. It does, however, induce some students to attend more selective universities.