The Effects of Transferring to a Four-Year College
Lois Miller

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

Over one-third of students who begin at a postsecondary institution in the United States transfer to another college at least once within 6 years. Yet, little is known about how transferring affects students? educational and labor market outcomes. In this paper, I use Texas administrative data to study the impacts of transferring to a 4-year college (from either a 2-year or 4-year college). First, I use applications and admissions data and an algorithm based on Porter and Yu (2015) to identify GPA cutoffs that each 4-year institution uses in its transfer student admissions, such that students just above the cutoff are significantly more likely to be accepted than those just below. Then, I use these cutoffs in a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effects of transferring to these institutions on degree completion, time to degree, employment, and earnings (relative to being denied transfer admission). I also explore how the effects of transferring vary with college selectivity. Previous work has shown positive effects of attending more selective colleges but has only considered students who begin their education at selective institutions as opposed to students who transfer in. I add to this literature by evaluating whether these positive effects extend to transfer students. My research also has equity implications: disadvantaged students are disproportionately likely to begin their education at 2-year or less selective 4-year institutions, so transferring may be their most accessible pathway to selective colleges. My results can inform both individual students and policymakers.
About Lois Miller
Lois Miller is a PhD candidate in Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is also affiliated with the Institute for Research on Poverty as a Graduate Research Fellow. She is broadly interested in the interaction between higher education and inequality, with a focus on understanding what types of policies can promote social mobility for disadvantaged students. Her research applies causal inference methods to large-scale administrative data. Her dissertation focuses on how transferring between colleges affects students? educational and labor market outcomes. Other work includes a policy evaluation of tuition freezes and caps, an analysis of how the effects of graduating from college during a recession vary by college selectivity, and a study of how the distance from a student?s home to the nearest community college affects their enrollment and educational attainment. Her research has been published in The Economics of Education Review. Prior to pursuing her PhD at UW-Madison, she earned a bachelor?s degree in mathematics from DePauw University. Outside of research, she enjoys long distance running and taking her greyhound to the dog park.

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