Escalera Foundation provides lower-secondary students in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, with vouchers that cover the cost of high school admission exam fees. Escalera works on areas where, on average, only 55% of students continue to high school. To increase enrollment rates, Escalera created the program REACH in 2013, which they have implemented in four successive years (waves). Previous waves of REACH show that subsidizing enrollment and admission exam fees can increase enrollment rates by up to 6 percentage points, on average.
One key difference between the fifth wave of REACH and previous ones is that this year (2018), Escalera will no longer cover the cost of enrollment fees, as the recent education reform in Mexico made them illegal. Hence, vouchers will only pay for admission exam fees. We hypothesize that they still represent an important and oftentimes prohibitive cost for students in marginalized areas of Chiapas. To test the effectiveness of the vouchers, the program was randomly assigned at the school (telesecundaria) level and vouchers were delivered to the students of selected schools by Escalera’s staff. Students can use these vouchers to pay for the total cost (6 to 13 USD, approximately) of the exam in any high school of the state. We will compare enrollment rates between students in treatment schools and control schools to assess the impact of vouchers on high school enrollment.