New Research on Milwaukee and D.C. Confirms: Voucher Programs Work

Voucher Students More Likely to Enroll in College than Public School Peers

Research released today by the Urban Institute shows further favorable long-term outcomes for students who enroll in private school choice programs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. Previous research released by the Urban Institute in September 2017 showed even more positive outcomes in Florida’s largest private school choice program.

Statement from John Schilling, President of the American Federation for Children: 

“The results in Florida and Milwaukee clearly show that students who use a publicly funded scholarship to attend the school of their family’s choice are more likely to enroll in college compared to their public school peers.

“The Florida study found that students who stayed in the program for four years or more were roughly 40 percent more likely to enroll in college. We’re likely to see the same compounded impact in Milwaukee and D.C.; however, due to limitations of the data, this multi-year impact has not yet been measured. Also, in D.C. not every student who received a scholarship used it and the group these students were compared to went to traditional district schools, charters and private schools.

“All of these programs deserve further study. We hope future research on these programs and others can look at high school graduation rates of participating students as well as college matriculation and persistence for students who have participated for multiple years.”

Highlights from Urban Institute findings:

– In Milwaukee, students using vouchers in elementary school saw a 4 percent increase in college enrollment compared with their public school peers, making them 9% more likely to enroll.

– In Milwaukee, students using vouchers in high school saw a 6 percent increase in four-year college enrollment compared with their public school peers, making them 16% more likely to enroll.

– In the study of Florida released in September 2017, private school choice students saw an average 6 percent increase in enrollment at a public college, making them 15% more likely to enroll on average; and up to 43% more likely to enroll in college if they enrolled in a private school choice program for more than 4 years.

– Milwaukee students who used vouchers were also more likely to persist through college at a greater rate, though there was no significant difference in their rate of degree attainment.

– The D.C. results indicate that students offered a publicly funded scholarship may or may not be more likely to enroll in college compared to students who were offered a scholarship. It’s important to note that it tests the offer of a scholarship so it is not a straight comparison with similarly situated traditional public school students. Also, many students (27%) who were offered a scholarship chose not to use them for various reasons, but their outcomes were still included in this study and combined with those of scholarship recipients.