New data shows that states that have legalized recreational cannabis recorded a short-term boost in college applications from prospective students. The colleges also received more applications overall. The data was collected in a study, which had its findings recently published in the “Contemporary Economic Policy” journal.
The researchers used the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to obtain data on various college metrics, including detailed tuition prices prior to and after financial aid applications, school application numbers and demographic characteristics of students.
The study determined that applications for colleges in states the year that recreational cannabis was legalized increased by more than 5%. It should be noted that the results controlled for tuition prices, school quality and conditions in the labor market, which could affect decisions on student applications.
The researchers also determined that the biggest schools had the strongest gains, observing a 54% rise in applications as compared to similarly sized institutions in states that had not legalized recreational cannabis. Additionally, public universities and colleges benefited more in comparison to private institutions. This is despite the fact that applications for private institutions increased in legal states.
These findings matter because they demonstrate that states legalizing recreational marijuana may benefit institutions of higher learning. Increased applications also afford schools a larger and a higher-achieving pool to select students from and may help improve an institution’s academic profile.
The study’s results fit into a bigger body of research examining what affects student choices when it comes to college applications.
The researchers determined that, similar to how institutions recorded an increase in SAT scores and applications when they had good sports teams, institutions recorded increases when they were located in legal states. The data suggests that students may factor local policies into their choices during college applications.
Team members also analyzed state laws to determine when recreational cannabis would be available to students, noting that as long as recreational cannabis was legally available before the end of January, which is when most applications were due, cannabis could probably impact the application decisions of prospective students.
Despite all these findings, the researchers still cannot ascertain why freshmen who often come straight from high school and haven’t attained the legal age to consume recreational cannabis might base their decisions on the drug’s availability. Additionally, the researchers cannot identify with clarity the portion of applications that come from out-of-state students and helps drive applications following legalization. The researchers are now focused on examining how legalized cannabis affects student outcomes for all learning institutions.
As more studies are done on how the wider community is impacted by cannabis legalization, it could emerge that legal sales from licensed operators such as TerrAscend Corp. (TSX: TSND) (OTCQX: TSNDF) may have more socioeconomic benefits than initially thought.
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