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Academic Programs

Alvaro Carril will be presenting in person. Viewers may also attend via Zoom.


How do universities’ differ in their preferences over the composition, diversity and academic ability of their student body? A large literature in education economics has remained mostly silent about this question due to difficulties in measurement and the opacity of university admission processes in countries such as the U.S. We explore this question in the Chilean higher education setting, one of many countries that use centralized assignments for university admissions. We study the effect of a reform that allowed universities to select students based on their ranking relative to their high school peers, in addition to standardized tests and GPA. Using an array of empirical designs and machine learning prediction tools, we find significant heterogeneity in universities’ willingness to admit students based on their predicted academic performance and demographic characteristics. Our results shed light on the importance of accounting for institutions’ responses to policies aimed at increasing equity in access to higher education. We also emphasize and quantify trade-offs between guaranteeing diversity and inclusion in admissions—hence addressing structural inequality and fostering upwards mobility (Chetty et al., 2020)—and leveraging institution-specific knowledge on predictors of academic success.