School vouchers and tax credit scholarships may not always improve participants’ standardized test performance, but a growing crop of studies suggest they are cost-effective when it comes to encouraging economically disadvantaged students to pursue a college education.
Two recent Urban Institute studies, one on Milwaukee and the other on Washington, D.C., continue that trend. The reports follow similar results from a 2017 Urban Institute study of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program.
Students in Milwaukee using vouchers to attend private schools were more likely to attend college, while students in Washington were no more or less likely, to attend college than their public-school peers. Past Urban Institute research in Florida showed modest positive college attendance and associate degree gains among school choice participants.
Researchers Patrick Wolf, John Witte and Brian Kisida found Milwaukee voucher students were 6 percentage points more likely to attend a four-year college than their public school peers. Milwaukee choice students were 1-2 percentage points more likely to graduate college, but that difference was not statistically significant.
The researchers conclude, “students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program tend to have higher levels of many measures of educational attainment than a carefully matched comparison of Milwaukee Public School students.”