Opportunity Cost Neglect in Higher Education

Last registered on March 03, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Opportunity Cost Neglect in Higher Education
Initial registration date
October 13, 2021

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
October 15, 2021, 3:17 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
March 03, 2023, 10:14 AM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator

ifo Institute

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Erfurt, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods
PI Affiliation
Nuremberg Institute of Technology
PI Affiliation
Nuremberg Institute of Technology

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Recent advances in the economic literature find that people don’t consider opportunity costs when making decisions. This is in contrast to economic theory, which assumes people consider the costs of missing the benefit of the next best alternative when making a decision. However, the literature also points out that explicitly showing opportunity costs helps individuals to take them into consideration. While the positive effect of making opportunity costs explicit has been shown in consumer market research, there is no literature in the field of higher education. Against this background, we will test two different information treatments with students from 21 different study programs. One informs them about future earnings and the other one points out the opportunity costs of long study durations.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Behlen, Lars et al. 2023. "Opportunity Cost Neglect in Higher Education." AEA RCT Registry. March 03. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.8375-3.0
Experimental Details


The intervention is conducted with an incoming cohort of first-year university students studying towards 21 different degrees. In all experimental groups, students will receive information per postal letters twice during their first semester.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary outcomes are academic achievement dimensions that are directly related to study duration. Therefore, we consider the following set of outcomes at the end of the first semester: course credits signed up for, course credits attempted, and course credits passed. Outcomes are collected using administrative data provided by the university.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
We plan to study whether students trade off performance increases on the primary outcome dimensions with decreases on other outcome dimensions (grade point average, dropout, and non-cognitive outcomes). In addition, we want to study whether treatment affects students’ expected earnings. Non-cognitive outcomes and expected earnings will be measured with online surveys, all other outcomes are collected using administrative data provided by the university.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Students will be randomly allocated to a control and two treatment groups.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Blocked randomization using Stata and R.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
2,222 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
2,222 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Group 1: 739
Group 2: 740
Group 3: 743
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethics Committee of the University of Erfurt
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials