Employer-Sponsored Education Assistance and Graduate Program Choice, Cost, and Finance

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This paper studies the impact of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 that amended employer-sponsored education assistance (ESEA) fringe benefits from taxable to nontaxable for graduate studies. ESEA is an integral part of graduate education finance and is the dominant non-loan source of student aid. Using difference-in-difference and triple-difference specifications, we empirically evaluate educational outcomes related to graduate education choice, cost, and finance. The empirical results suggest that post-law reform, non-degree graduate students who exercise ESEA benefits are 12.3% more likely to attend open-admission institutions, 12.5% less likely to attend in-state, 10.3% more likely to attend for-profit colleges, and no changes are identified on cost or education debt loads, relative to their pre-law reform peers. As a whole, no differences in program choice are observed for degree-seeking graduate students. Additionally, the estimates suggest that while degree-seeking graduate students applying ESEA attend programs that cost, on average, $1170 more, no changes are identified post-law reform (2008 dollars). Furthermore, degree-seeking graduate students that apply ESEA benefits take out, on average, $1530 less in student loans, and this declines by an additional $1474 post-law reform (2008 dollars). Analysis by graduate program and also by gender and age suggest substantial heterogeneity from graduate program educational outcomes, especially for MBA students.




Copyright (c) 2002-2022, LYRASIS. All rights reserved.