By Donna Krache, CNN
(CNN) – A recently released study by the Brookings Institution at Harvard has stirred up the debate over school choice and vouchers.
In some districts and states, parents can get vouchers to pay for their children’s education. Parents may choose to send their children to religious or private schools using the vouchers as payment for tuition. Much of the research surrounding the effectiveness of vouchers centers on more immediate outcomes, such as test scores.
The Brookings study was based on data collected on students who were recipients of vouchers from the privately funded New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation program. In 1997, the foundation offered three-year scholarships of up to $1,400 per year to 1,000 low-income families whose children were either entering first grade or were already in public schools in second through fifth grades. The Brookings study claims to be the first that used “a randomized experiment to measure the impact of school vouchers on college enrollment.” It also claims to be one of only a few studies to track longer-term outcomes, years after students received their first vouchers.
Overall, the study found no effect on college enrollment, except among African-Americans, where there was significant impact.
“Our estimates indicate that using a voucher to attend private school increased the overall college enrollment rate among African-Americans by 24%,” say Matthew M. Chingos and Paul E. Peterson, the study’s authors.
The study also indicates that enrollment rates in “selective colleges” more than doubled among African-American students who received vouchers.