Employer-Sponsored Education Assistance and Graduate Program Choice, Cost, and Finance
Gilpin, Gregory A.
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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.