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Coautores: Andrés Moya y Fabio Sánchez, Universidad de los Andes
This paper shows how the apparition of a large scale scholarship based on social criteria and merit, led to substantial improvement in the distribution of grades of eligible students, providing new evidence on the ex-ante effects of scholarships. “Ser Pilo Paga” (SPP) is a nationwide scholarship program for low income students in Colombia, which fully funds university tuitions and additional costs for more than 10,000 new students per year in Colombia. Because eligibility is based on a needs-based stratification index we use a Regressions Discontinuity Design (RDD) to identify the causal effects of the scholarship program on student performance in the national high school exit exam. We find that the opportunity provided by the scholarship leads to a large and significant reduction in the initial gap in the grades of the eligible students compared to the (wealthier) non-eligible students. This effect is largely driven by the performance of eligible students at the top of the performance distribution. A second RDD uses the threshold in the grade that needs to be attained to be granted the fellowship and shows how students’ aspirations and effort are enhanced when a student from their same school received the scholarship in the previous year. The results show that the lack of opportunities discourages low income students from putting effort in their education, which then harms their human capital accumulation and perpetuates the low social mobility.