The Yellow Ribbon Program's Effect on Beneficiary Enrollment at Participating Institutions
Thompson, Briana Leigh
Kern, Andreas T.
This paper examines the influence of VA education benefits on beneficiary enrollment by analyzing the specific effects of the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program. Existing scholarship studies the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s positive effect on benefit take-up rates, educational attainment, and retention among beneficiaries since its ratification in 2008. The Yellow Ribbon Program is a subsidiary of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that provides additional tuition subsidies, beyond the amounts of the core benefit, to recipients at participating institutions. This program makes private and out-of-state institutions more affordable by allowing institutions to partially fund tuition costs exceeding Post-9/11 GI Bill thresholds. This study uses individual-level data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), collected in 2014 and 2015, and institution-level data from the 2014-2015 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to study the impact of Yellow Ribbon Program tuition subsidies on beneficiary enrollment at over 1,850 participating institutions. Relying on the results from multivariate regressions, this study examines the impact of VA-sponsored tuition subsidies on the number of beneficiaries enrolled in a given institution. I explore whether a higher proportion of tuition funded through the Yellow Ribbon Program, thus fewer out-of-pocket tuition expenses for individuals, increases the proportion of beneficiaries enrolled. The institutions included in this study are Yellow Ribbon Program participants, with the number of beneficiary students acting as the dependent variable. Other independent regression variables predicted to impact beneficiary enrollment include: tuition costs, institution location, institution selectivity, and whether an institution has dedicated student veteran/beneficiary support. I hypothesize that more generous Yellow Ribbon Program tuition subsidies correlate with higher relative beneficiary populations at participating institutions. The Yellow Ribbon Program cost $185 million US dollars ($3,824.92 per beneficiary) in 2015 alone, so it is important to understand how and through which channels the program influences beneficiary enrollment choices (US Department of Veterans Affairs 2018). This understanding can enhance the program’s effectiveness for employment opportunities, educational attainment, and the livelihoods of veterans, service members, and their families.My findings reveal a statistically significant and positive relationship between out-of-pocket tuition costs and beneficiary enrollment. In all baseline regression models, doubling out-of-pocket tuition costs is associated with a 5-10% increase in beneficiary enrollment in an institution (). While this result seems counterintuitive, it is likely that beneficiaries receive aid other than VA-sponsored tuition subsidies, making a given institution more affordable than it appears in these data. I believe the omitted variable of institutional grants offered to beneficiaries prior to enrollment conflates the effect of Yellow Ribbon Program subsidies in this study.
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