22 SES 07 C, Students' Support
During the past decade, a number of papers on the accessibility of higher education under the recently introduced Unified State Exam (USE) have appeared in Russia. Researchers examined various aspects that simplify or restrict access to higher education. In general, the research on this topic is devoted to the study of the effectiveness of specific educational strategies within the framework of the transition from high school to university. Recent studies emphasize the role of family factors (mainly income and parental education) in choosing a university and the accessibility of higher education in general. In other words, not only the individual results of USE determine educational outcomes, the type of institution and the admission strategy.
Nevertheless, USE is the main mechanism for admission to universities.[i] In an ideal situation the applicant’s academic achievement, expressed in her individual USE scores, will correspond to the level of the university where she will enroll. This situation is considered the most desirable, because the future student enters a university which fully corresponds to her abilities. In addition, when the levels of student and university quality match (regardless of the level of student achievement), she has the greatest chance of graduation (Light, Strayer, 2000). However, other situations are possible when such an ideal (perfect) matching is absent. First, the applicant’s ability might be lower than the level of university selectivity, i.e. less capable applicants may enter universities with higher requirements for students (overmatching). In this case, it can be assumed that the student being enrolled occupies the place of a more capable student, which reduces the efficiency of resource allocation in higher education. Such a situation is, however, favorable for the applicant, since studying in a more selective institution (and accordingly, being surrounded by more capable students) will allow her to invest in human capital and get a higher return on higher education.
A less favorable situation is the reverse, because it may indicate the existence of inequalities in access to higher education and unfair distribution of entrants among HEIs. This is when a more capable entrant chooses a less selective institution (undermatching) and receives an education of lower quality than that she could claim on the basis of her individual abilities. Therefore, we think it important to understand why such mismatches between the applicant’s abilities and the university quality can occur, and what the reasons for the emergence of undermatching for USE and standardized admission procedure are
This paper studies the factors determining the probability of such undermatching. For the Russian higher education system the study of matching mechanisms as the final result of selection on the basis of USE scores is especially relevant since the institution of admission to higher education underwent significant changes in 2009. The earlier system of separate double high school and university examinations (when high school graduates were first required to sit the final school exams, and then, during the admission campaign they had to pass other, university-specific exams) was replaced by USE on different subjects which is passed at high schools and recognized by all Russian HEIs. Thus, in the context of a significant institutional transformation, it is important to know what potential barriers (other than those described above) can limit access to higher education with a standardized admission system.
This paper is based on data obtained from a longitudinal study of students in Moscow schools, started in 2012, when the participants were in the 9th grade and were choosing their further trajectory of learning and their life in general. We use data on Moscow high school graduates only, i.e. students who study in the region with the largest and most developed regional higher education market in the country. Most of these students were admitted to a university located in the same region (Moscow), where they had studied at school. According to the focus of this study only on those who studied in Moscow, we manage to avoid a number of transaction costs associated with admission to HEIs, e.g. costs of moving, living in another city. In other words, we exclude the regional variation in socio-economic development, the differences in the development of local higher education markets and the corresponding transaction costs which can have a serious impact on the choice of university. All students from the sample have equal opportunities for applying for university (document submission). Consequently, we formally assume equal access to higher education based on the results of USE (i.e., the income factor is eliminated, because students do not have to change the region for the purpose of studying or they do not have to spend additional money for living separately from their parents). The study of the educational choice of Moscow students allows us to study the barriers to higher education in conditions of low transaction costs concerned with university choice and further study. We run several regression models where we regress the probability of undermatch on a set or independent variables. Independent variables are gender, high school status, high school ranking, a student’s change of school, class specialization, the birthplace of the student, the level of the mother’s education, family status (single-parent family), the number of books at home.
The results show that during the admission process, favorable conditions for ideal matching or overmatching are observed. Thus, depending on the coefficient of matching, in the least favorable situation (undermatching), is relevant for 14 to 28% of entrants. The probability of undermatching is affected by individual USE scores and the ranking of the high school. Nevertheless, it was empirically shown that USE results themselves are influenced by a number of school characteristics (school type, class specialization, school quality) and family characteristics (mother’s education, number of books at home). These results indicate the presence of factors not directly related to student’s innate abilities, which are important determinants of academic performance. From the point of view of ensuring equal access to higher education, it can be concluded that, although most entrants find themselves in HEIs corresponding to their abilities, the inequality of access to higher education is laid at earlier stages – in the family and in the school. Note that these results were obtained under assumption of low transaction costs associated with admission to university, since the empirical part of the study was based on data on students who graduated from Moscow high schools and entered universities in the Moscow region. Thus, a number of barriers related to the family income status, regional economic development and the limited choice of the university in the regional higher education markets were initially leveled. Since even in conditions close to ideal, the inequality of access to higher education arises at pre-entry stages, the inclusion of students from different regions (and when the corresponding regional variation is included) can lead to even greater effects with an increase of the share of mismatched students. Therefore, conducting an analysis of matching on the Russian higher education market in general would be useful.
1.Davis-Kean, P. E. (2005). The influence of parent education and family income on child achievement: the indirect role of parental expectations and the home environment. Journal of family psychology, 19(2), 294. 2.Dillon, E. W., & Smith, J. A. (2017). Determinants of the match between student ability and college quality. Journal of Labor Economics, 35(1), 45-66. 3.Gale, D., & Shapley, L. S. (1962). College admissions and the stability of marriage. The American Mathematical Monthly, 69(1), 9-15. 4.Griffith, A. L., & Rothstein, D. S. (2009). Can’t get there from here: The decision to apply to a selective college. Economics of Education Review, 28(5), 620-628. 5.Harris, D. N. (2010). Education production functions: Concepts. In B. McGaw, P. L. Peterson, & E. Baker (Eds.), International encyclopedia of education (pp. 402–406). Amsterdam: Elsevier. 6.Haruvy, E., Roth, A. E., & Ünver, M. U. (2006). The dynamics of law clerk matching: An experimental and computational investigation of proposals for reform of the market. Journal of Economic dynamics and control, 30(3), 457-486. 7.Light, A., & Strayer, W. (2000). Determinants of college completion: School quality or student ability?. Journal of Human Resources, 299-332. 8.Lincove, J. A., & Cortes, K. E. (2016). Match or Mismatch? Automatic Admissions and College Preferences of Low-and High-Income Students (No. w22559). National Bureau of Economic Research. 9.Prakhov, I. (2016). The Barriers of Access to Selective Universities in Russia. Higher Education Quarterly, 70(2), 170-199. 10.Slonimczyk, F., Francesconi, M., & Yurko, A. V. (2017). Moving On Up for High School Graduates in Russia: The Consequences of the Unified State Exam Reform.
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