There’s a growing body of research on the effect certain “nudges” – text messages or emails, for example – can have on certain measures of success in postsecondary education. Now, one more can be added to the list: the “Michelle Obama Effect.”
In a research brief from the University of Virginia’s (UVA) EdPolicyWorks – a joint collaboration between the Curry School of Education and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy – researchers Kelli Bird, Ben Castleman, and Katharine Meyer show that FAFSA completions increased roughly 10 percent in communities that the former First Lady has visited.
Obama made several visits to schools as part of her Reach Higher campaign, which focused on providing motivational stories and specific information to students, as a way to improve college access. The UVA researchers analyzed four events in the spring of 2014 where Obama visited local universities and schools. They found that compared to other similar districts in the state, the communities Obama visited had higher FAFSA completion rates following the events.
“If her visit had no effect, we’d expect filing rates to continue to track identically between the districts she visited and the synthetic control districts in the weeks after her visit,” the brief said. “However, we find that in each location Mrs. Obama visited, FAFSA filing rates increase initially relative to synthetic controls and then sustain that difference with a widening gap in FAFSA submission over time.”
Publication Date: 2/15/2017