Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Interventions that Improve High School Completion
Issue/Topic: At-Risk (incl. Dropout Prevention); High School
Author(s): Belfield, Clive; Bowden, A.; Cheng, Henan; Hanisch-Cerda, Barbara; Hollands, Fiona; Levin, Henry; Pan, Yilin; Shand, Robert
Organization(s): Teachers College, Columbia University
Publication: Teachers College, Columbia University
Published On: 1/1/2012
With 6% of GDP being spent on education in the United States, it is important to evaluate which educational strategies are effective and use resources most judiciously.
To describe the tool of cost-effectiveness analysis, to identify methodological challenges in its application, to present cost-effectiveness cost analyses of several programs, to demonstrate how cost-effectiveness comparisons can be used to inform decision-makers.
- The cost to produce each extra high school completer through educational reforms such as interventions studied here are very high, ranging from $70,000 to $195,000 per completer excluding Talent Search.
- Broadly, of the class of programs targeted at dropouts, two interventions look more cost-effective at increasing high school completion–National Guard Youth Challenge (NGYC) and JOBSTART–with the other two programs, New Chance and Job Corps, having similar (but lower) cost effectiveness.
- This comparison demands caution about drawing conclusions regarding the programs’ costs because the costs data were not collected in a consistent manner across programs.
- Talent Search was most cost effective because it is incremental, providing services to students beyond what they receive in his high school, it isn’t independent and doesn’t have to provide an array of services.
- While more illustrative than definitive, these cost-effectiveness conclusions still might be informative for policymakers. If the goal is improving high school completion rates, Talent Search appears highly cost-effective for youth still in school. However, the problem of those who’ve already dropped out must be addressed.
- Costs vary dramatically when the programs are targeted at different populations.
- Remedial programs that aim to help youth who have already dropped out graduate with a GED or High school diploma are very expensive relative to preventative programs targeting students still in school.
- Given the high returns to individuals and society of high school graduation the costs of remedial programs are probably worthwhile.
- The most essential lesson in cost-effectiveness analysis is that costs and effectiveness of an intervention should be assessed simultaneously at the same sites, based on the same sample of study participants during the same period.
- It is necessary for costs to be collected in a consistent manner in each case, just as we would expect for the effectiveness data.
- It is important to determine costs of “business as usual” in order to correctly identify the additional resources required by an intervention.
- Data on impact and costs should be accompanied by descriptions of programs implementation at each site evaluated such that variations in implementation can be used to help explain variations in costs and effectiveness.
- When variability in site-level cost and effectiveness are high, a cost-effective ratio based on the overall program is imprecise.
- While cost-effectiveness ranking is a key piece of information for decision makers, other criteria also apply: greatest desirable impact, politically most feasible and targeted population.
- In order to inform educational policymaking, cost-effectiveness comparisons should routinely be incorporated into educational evaluations.
- By incorporating the ingredients method at the time of the intervention, costs can be obtained with greater accuracy.
Programs that improve high school completion: National Guard Youth Challenge (NGYC), Job Corps, JOBSTART, New Chance, Talent Search
Year data is from:
Late 1990s to 2012
Data Collection and Analysis:
Authors took five programs identified as effective by the U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse and compared their costs.
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