Tax-Based Aid, College Enrollment, Persistence, and Graduation

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2018

Publication Title

Journal of Education Finance


This paper studies the effectiveness of individual federal income tax credits and deductions that are made available to college students and their families who satisfy income and certain other eligibility requirements. Such credits and deductions are collectively called "tax-based aid." Tax-based aid is found here to have a limited effect on college attendance. The effect is present only for independent students, who are 16 to 29 percentage points more likely to enroll in a college if they are eligible for aid. The correlation between the tax-based aid and college persistence and graduation is only present for a subgroup of higher-performing students eligible for the aid. Students eligible only one (of two) years are 22 percentage points more likely to persist through the first eight months of a two-year college and 17.5 percentage points more likely to graduate with an Associate degree compared to other higher performing students no eligible for aid.