I conduct an online experiment with German university students. The experiment is conducted with oTree. Students are invited to participate through their general student committee distribution channels, varying from email distribution lists, newsletters, and/or social media posts. The survey consists of three parts: Socio-demographic background questions, elicitation of perceptions, and reasons for (non-)take-up of the financial aid.
Students are asked how they finance their monthly living expenses. For each possible income source, they have to type in an amount how much money they have from this source per month. Depending on whether they indicate to already receive the financial aid by entering a positive amount in its respective input field, students receive additional questions to determine their history with the financial aid program. On the next page, students are asked about their parents' marital status, job status, monthly net income and confidence in these values, and dependent siblings to determine potential eligibility for the financial aid program. Additionally, students are asked about their year of birth, sex, housing situation, and current educational status.
Elicitation of perceptions:
Students receive 10 questions about the conditions of the financial aid program. The first 8 questions are elicited with hypothetical scenarios. These scenarios describe a situation of a student that receives the financial aid.
In the first scenario, students have to give their perception about how much financial aid the respective person from the scenario receives per month. This question is asked three times based on the scenario and two changes in the scenario. These changes are an adjusted parents' income and an adjusted wealth, which both translate into a change in the amount of financial aid one receives per month. The perception elicitation is therefore repeated to measure how changes in the situation translate into adjustments of perceptions. An answer is correct if it is in the 200€-interval around the true value.
In the second scenario, the participant receives information about how much financial aid the person in the hypothetical scenario receives per month and is asked about the parents' income. This question is repeated a second time after adjusting the number of siblings in the scenario, which changes the parents' income amount for receiving financial aid. An answer is correct if it is in the 15,000€-interval around the true value.
The third scenario gives information about the total amount of financial aid the hypothetical student received over time. The participant is asked about how much this person has to pay back under three different circumstances, each of which results in a different repayment amount. An answer is correct if it is in the 1,000€ interval around the true value.
Additionally to these scenarios, the participant is asked about the fraction of students that received the financial aid in 2019, where an answer is correct if it is in the 10%-interval around the true value, and the average financial aid these students received per month, where an answer is correct if it is in the 200€-interval around the true value.
These 10 questions are incentivized by increasing the individual chance to win a lottery of 100 x 25€ by 10 percentage points per correct answer. For each perception question, participants are asked about their confidence in their answers.
In addition to the incentivized elicitation of perceptions, participants who did not file an application for the financial aid yet are asked if they think they would be eligible on a 5-point Likert scale.
Reasons for (non-)take-up:
Depending on whether the participant already receives the financial aid or applied for it, she is asked for the reasons for take-up using a 5-point Likert scale matrix. Participants that never filed an application are asked for reasons for non-take-up, also using a 5-point Likert scale matrix.
Participants receive bundled information about the financial aid program. This intervention consists of parents' income thresholds, financial aid amounts, repayment modalities, own income and wealth, and age. Additionally, if the participant answered the questions about the parents' income, she receives additional feedback about the potential threshold of financial aid she could get per month. If the calculation of a positive threshold is not possible due to parents' income above the eligibility threshold, students are informed that a calculation was not possible based on their answers. Students who do not indicate the marital status of their parents or have one deceased / not available parent receive an income threshold for their parent(s) that would still result in a positive amount of financial aid for the student. All students receive links to information websites of the financial aid program and are invited to contact the research team via email if they want to receive more information or want to talk about the financial aid program.
All participants receive an email about the follow-up survey three months between the initial data collection and the recontact. A stratified subsample receives a text passage reminding them that our calculations have determined a positive financial aid amount, and that if one wants to receive financial aid for the next semester, one should file an application shortly. The subsample is cross-randomized from the initial treatment and control groups.
Students that indicated to have never applied for the financial aid in the past are recontacted again six months after the first survey to take part in another follow-up survey. Now, students are asked if they have applied for the financial aid program in the meantime and if so, which amount they receive per month. Misperceptions are elicited again through different scenarios. Additionally, I elicit expected income at age 45, expected or actual time taken to file application depending on application status, debt aversion impulsiveness, patience, migration background, parents' educational background, GPA, and current enrollment status. Participants from the intervention group who file an application are also asked which part of the intervention got them to file an application with a 5-point Likert scale matrix. Participation is incentivized by a lottery to receive 200 x 50€ for participation.
(i) Stronger misperceptions lead to a lower likelihood to file an application.
(ii) Students who receive the intervention are more likely to file an application before the recontact.
(iii) Students have heterogenous treatment effects with respect to their stated reasons for non-application.