When Opportunity Knocks, Who Answers? New Evidence on College Achievement Awards

Peer-reviewed Publication

Joshua Angrist, Philip Oreopoulos, Tyler Williams

May 2014

We evaluate the effects of academic achievement awards for first- and second- year college students studying at a Canadian commuter college. The award scheme offered linear cash incentives for course grades above 70. Awards were paid every term. Program participants also had access to peer advising by upperclassmen. Program engagement appears to have been high but overall treatment effects were small. The intervention increased the number of courses graded above 70 and points earned above 70 for second year students but generated no significant effect on overall GPA. Results are somewhat stronger for a subsample of applicants who correctly described the program rules.