Impacts of the Chancellor's Emergency Relief Fund on College Students' Performance and Wellbeing

Last registered on December 06, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Impacts of the Chancellor's Emergency Relief Fund on College Students' Performance and Wellbeing
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0008649
Initial registration date
December 03, 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
December 06, 2021, 10:11 AM EST

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

Locations

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Primary Investigator

Affiliation
CUNY

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Status
On going
Start date
2020-04-01
End date
2023-06-30
Secondary IDs
RSF Grant#: 2007-26767
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
To provide rapid-response financial support so the most vulnerable and disenfranchised students could cover their basic living expenses and to help ensure that they could remain in school and complete their degrees as the pandemic and its economic consequences continued to unfold, The City University of New York (CUNY) offered the Chancellor’s Emergency Relief (CER) grant program, a one-time $500 lottery-based grant targeted to undocumented and low-income students. During the Spring 2020 semester, 4,000 qualifying students received the grant. The recipients were chosen randomly from a pool of about 20,000 students who were eligible and had applied to the program. To be eligible students had to: (1) seek a degree at CUNY during the school year 2019-20, and (2) belong to one of the following groups: undocumented or low-income students. In the case of low-income students, eligibility was determined by being within 12 credits of earning an undergraduate degree, and either having an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of zero on their federal financial aid application (FAFSA) or being a parent with any EFC. In contrast, undocumented students did not have to be within certain credits of graduation to be eligible, and they could be seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree. Eligible students amounted to close to 10% of the CUNY student population. Using academic administrative records, we exploit the randomization in the distribution of the CER grant program to evaluate the short- and medium-term impacts this one-time cash grant has on students’ academic persistence, academic performance, and degree completion up to two years after grant receipt. Using survey data, we explore the potential mechanisms behind these findings, including online-learning challenges, child- or family-care, employment stability, anxiety and stress, and food, housing and financial insecurity, among other potential explanations. Our findings will be helpful in shaping policies to anticipate and respond to future challenges, especially among the most underserved populations of students in New York City.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Rodriguez-Planas, Nuria. 2021. "Impacts of the Chancellor's Emergency Relief Fund on College Students' Performance and Wellbeing." AEA RCT Registry. December 06. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.8649
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
The City University of New York (CUNY) offered the Chancellor’s Emergency Relief (CER) grant program, a one-time $500 lottery-based grant targeted to undocumented and low-income students. During the Spring 2020 semester, 4,000 qualifying students received the grant. The recipients were chosen randomly from a pool of about 20,000 students who were eligible and had applied to the program. To be eligible students had to: (1) seek a degree at CUNY during the school year 2019-20, and (2) belong to one of the following groups: undocumented or low-income students. In the case of low-income students, eligibility was determined by being within 12 credits of earning an undergraduate degree, and either having an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of zero on their federal financial aid application (FAFSA) or being a parent with any EFC. In contrast, undocumented students did not have to be within certain credits of graduation to be eligible, and they could be seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree. Eligible students amounted to close to 10% of the CUNY student population. Using academic administrative records, we exploit the randomization in the distribution of the CER grant program to evaluate the short- and medium-term impacts this one-time cash grant has on students’ academic persistence, academic performance, and degree completion up to two years after grant receipt. Using survey data, we explore the potential mechanisms behind these findings, including online-learning challenges, child- or family-care, employment stability, anxiety and stress, and food, housing and financial insecurity, among other potential explanations.
Intervention Start Date
2020-04-06
Intervention End Date
2020-05-18

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
College graduation, enrollment in college, not enrolled and not graduated. These three outcomes, which add to 100%, will be measured at different points in time: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, and so on. Semester GPA, credits take, credits earned, credits dropped (also measured at different points in time). Likelihood of re-enrollment at CUNY to seek a higher degree (for example, a Bachelor's degree after graduating with an Associate degree).
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Self-reported wellbeing, financial situation, and employment status (including job loss information);
Employment expectations after graduation; Self-reported services and financial assistance received due to COVID-19, and use of aid (saving, consumption, and debt; detailed expenses if used to consume—includes Federal CARES act assistance as well as CER grant;
Questions on trust, anxiety, financial, housing and food insecurity;
Mental health questions (PHQ-9 and GAD-7)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The recipients were chosen randomly from a pool of about 20,000 students who were eligible and had applied to the program. There were two waves. Eligibility requirements varied by wave. In Wave 1, to be eligible students had to: (1) seek an Associate or Bachelor's degree at CUNY and be registered during the Spring 2020 semester and be within 12 credits of graduating; (2) belong to one of the following groups: International students, undocumented students, or low-income students; and (3) not be receiving work-study funds, veteran’s benefits, or foster care benefits. Low-income students were defined as having an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of zero on their federal financial aid application (FAFSA) if not a parent, or being a parent with any EFC. In Wave 2, there were three groups of students. Those who were eligible in Wave 1 and did not get the grant; and undocumented or international students 18 or older seeking a degree (including a graduate or professional degree) in Spring 2020. The distribution of the grants in Wave 2 was as follows: 20% for Wave 1 non-recipients, regardless of whether they applied in Wave 1; 70% for undocumented students; and 10% for international students. Application fields were April 6 to 10 2020 for Wave 1 and May 5 to 10 for Wave 2. Award dates were April 20, 2020 for Wave 1, and May 18, 2020 for Wave 2. In Wave 1: 14,248 eligible; 8,257 applied; and 2,000 grants distributed. In Wave 2: 23,420 eligible; 13,757 applied; and 2,000 grants distributed.


Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Lottery
Randomization Unit
Individual randomization
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
There are no clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
In Wave 1, 10,257 students of which 2,000 were treated. In Wave 2, 15,757 students of which 2,000 were treated.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
In Wave 1, 8,257 students in control group and 2,000 students in treatment group.
In Wave 1, 13,757 students in control group and 2,000 students in treatment group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
In Table 5 in the document entitled "Statistical Power", we have calculated a formal power analysis using the treatment and control sample sizes and several anticipated future outcomes. The treatment- and control-group sizes are 6,000 treated students who received the CER grant, and 13,168 qualified students who applied and did not get the CER grant when using administrative records, and about 4,000 when using survey data (note that we used different sample sizes for different outcomes as the response rate will vary across surveys as explained in the Timeline). We assume a conventional 95% confidence interval (significance level = 0.05), and calculate the power for the following two ITT effect sizes: (1) half a tenth and (2) a tenth of the control group standard deviation. When possible, control means and standard deviations come from spring 2020 administrative records of Queens College CER applicants or from pilot surveys conducted in summer and fall 2020 at Queens College by the PI, or the ASAP study. Importantly, Table 5 in the attachment shows that because of the large sample sizes of our treatment and control groups, we will have high power, especially when using administrative records data. Even when we assume an ITT effect of half a tenth of the control group’s standard deviation, the power is close to 90%, implying that we have close to a 90% probability of detecting an effect, given that the effect is really there. The power decreases with survey data as we will not have the whole population of CER applicants. Nonetheless, even with survey data, the power will be close to between 90% and 80% for ITT impacts of one tenth of the control group’s standard deviation. Impacts of one tenth of the control group’s standard deviation are not unusual for evaluations in higher education.
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
CUNY Human Research Protection Program
IRB Approval Date
2020-07-21
IRB Approval Number
2020-0475