University of Illinois at Chicago

Three Essays on Higher Education

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posted on 2020-08-01, 00:00 authored by Pauline P Khoo
In Chapter 1, I investigate whether the presence of peers from the same country of origin affects the success of international doctoral students. I use unique, administrative data on higher education enrollment and leverage variation in peer composition across cohorts within a program. Results indicate that a 10 percentage point increase in the share of peers from the same country of origin decreases the likelihood of persisting to the second year by two percentage points (2.35 percent). These country match effects are not driven by the general effect of international students or by language match effects. In Chapter 2, I evaluate how the Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension for STEM graduates impact enrollment decision of foreign students into STEM fields in the US. Using high-quality administrative data on higher education enrollment in Ohio, I find that the OPT extension increases the likelihood of foreign students’ enrollment in STEM fields. I also examine whether the extension of OPT affected degree completion. Results indicate that there is a higher probability of completion after the extension. These results suggest that the OPT program has the potential to change the skill composition of students in higher education and can also be a solution to the STEM shortage in the labor market. In Chapter 3, we provide the first estimate of the effect of graduating with honors on the earnings of recent college graduates. To help distinguish between the causal effect of honors and unobservables correlated with obtaining honors, we use a regression discontinuity design that exploits the fact that Latin honors such as cum laude are determined based on strict GPA cutoffs. We test for and find no evidence of students manipulating their GPA in order to obtain honors. Honors provides an earnings benefits for the first two years following graduation but this benefit disappears by the third year after graduation. This provides among the first pieces of evidence that firms respond to signals at the higher education level.



Ost, Ben


Ost, Ben



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Hembre, Eric Lubotsky, Darren Qureshi, Javaeria Rivkin, Steven Kares, Faith

Submitted date

August 2020

Thesis type



  • en

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