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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Access to Technology and the Transfer Function of Community Colleges: Evidence from a Field Experiment


Access to information may represent an important barrier to finding information and ultimately transferring to 4-year colleges for low-income community college students. This paper explores the role that access to information technology, in particular, plays in enhancing, or possibly detracting from, the transfer function of the community college. Using data from the first-everfield experiment randomly providing free computers to students, we examine the relationships between access to home computers and enrollment in transferable courses and actual transfers to 4-year colleges. The results from the field experiment indicate that the treatment group of students receiving free computers has a 4.5 percentage point higher probability of taking transferable courses than the control group of students not receiving free computers. The evidence is less clear for the effects on actual transfers to 4-year colleges, but we do find some suggestive evidence of small positive effects. Finally, we find that the treatment group has an 11 percentage point higher probability of using a computer to search for college information than the control group, possibly representing one of the mechanisms for positive effects.

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