Information on Time Investments in Higher Education

Last registered on April 13, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Information on Time Investments in Higher Education
Initial registration date
March 09, 2022

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
March 10, 2022, 9:03 PM EST

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

Last updated
April 13, 2022, 10:18 AM EDT

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
Nuremberg Institute of Technology
PI Affiliation
University of Erfurt, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods
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.
Students must continuously decide how much time and effort they want to invest in their studies. However, the necessary information for these decisions may be uncertain, not salient enough, or not known at all. For example, students may wonder how much effort and which challenges they will face in future semesters, they may not remember all the reasons why they started their degree program, and they may lack new facts that could affect their original motivation for studying.

In this research project, we investigate the effects of providing students with information about time investments on academic performance. In our first treatment, students receive information about how much time similar students spent on their studies on average. In the second treatment, students are additionally informed about the time they need to invest in each subsequent semester of studying. Our third and main treatment is motivated by research outside the context of education which shows that sunk costs may mitigate limited memory and affect subsequent decisions by providing individuals with information about their initial evaluation of a project. To apply the sunk-cost effect to higher education, we inform students in this treatment group about the time they have already invested in their studies.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Behlen, Lars et al. 2022. "Information on Time Investments in Higher Education." AEA RCT Registry. April 13.
Experimental Details


The intervention is conducted with university students from three different cohorts studying towards 21 different degrees. In all experimental groups, students will receive information per postal letters twice during the summer semester 2022.
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 summer semester 2022: course credits signed up for, course credits attempted, and course credits passed. For the most advanced cohort we will also consider whether students graduated successfully in the summer semester 2022.

In the second semester cohort, it is possible that information about time investment also influences students' decision whether to further pursue their studies. Therefore, we also analyze the impact of our treatments on dropout.
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 and non-cognitive outcomes). In addition, we want to study whether treatment affects students’ beliefs about the time other students spend on studying. Non-cognitive outcomes and beliefs 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 were randomly allocated to a control and three 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
4,719 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
4,719 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Group 1: 1,173
Group 2: 1,186
Group 3: 1,172
Group 4: 1,188
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