August 23, 2019

Dropping Knowledge

Two weeks ago, we featured an article about how KIPP Public Charter Schools has launched a “nudging” text message campaign to combat summer melt (when students who intend to go to college don’t actually show up) with their alumni. A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research calls this strategy into question.

The report presents results from the first large scale study of nudging interventions aimed at increasing the number of students who complete the FAFSA. Numerous smaller studies have found positive impacts of nudging interventions.

In this study, researchers partnered with a national organization and a statewide organization to conduct a randomized control trial with 800,000 students. Treated groups received nudges in the form of text messages, direct mail, and e-email with a variety of messages encouraging students to complete the FAFSA and offering assistance. The result?

“We consistently find no effect [of] these messages on student enrollment or financial aid outcomes. This null finding is consistent across samples, content, timing, visual presentation, and offers of personalized help.”

The researchers hypothesize why they see no impact whereas smaller studies have demonstrated positive impacts, including that their messages were naturally more generic and less tailored to individual student situations. Read the full report here.

In the Weeds

Rand Corporation recently released a study of America’s consumption of and spending on illegal drugs from 2006 to 2016. The study focuses on cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamines and gives an idea of how Americans’ use of these drugs has changed over time. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The number of people using marijuana grew nearly 30% from 2010 to 2016, and the marijuana market is now roughly the size of the cocaine and methamphetamine markets combined.
  • Heroin consumption increased 10% every year from 2010 to 2016.
  • Cocaine consumption dropped significantly from 2006 to 2010, but that decline slowed by 2015.

The number of chronic marijuana users in 2016 (22.8 million) far outnumbered those of any other drug, with chronic methamphetamine users coming in next at 3.2 million users (although the report acknowledges how difficult it is to get accurate numbers for methamphetamine).

Here’s a look at the amount of money spent on these drugs from 2006 to 2016, in billions of dollars (2018 dollars). Total expenditure reached almost $150 billion in 2016.

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For Your Consideration

Pew Research Center released a comprehensive look at Americans’ views of higher education this week, highlighting how those views are increasingly dependent on partisanship. In a July telephone survey, Pew found that the share of Americans saying colleges and universities have a positive effect on the way things are going for the country has dropped to 50%, and the share saying they have a negative effect has increased to 38%. This movement is almost entirely a result of changing Republican attitudes toward higher education.

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A Pew survey from 2018 explains what is driving negative views of higher education from both the left and the right with the biggest difference being in whether people believe professors are bringing their political and social views into the classroom.

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Need to Know

EducationNC is hiring for five new positions, including: videographer, audience engagement specialist, visuals and interactive editor, Western North Carolina coordinator, and a higher education policy analyst. Find out more about each position, including how to apply, here. Positions will close September 3.

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