Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration


Public Administration

Major Advisor

Stephanie L. Witt, Ph.D.


Gregory Hill, Ph.D.


Stephen M. Utych, Ph.D.


In an effort to improve the rate at which Idahoans ‘go on’ to postsecondary education, Idaho launched an initiative called Direct Admissions in the fall of 2015. This initiative informed students and their parents that the student had already been accepted to at least six of Idaho’s public colleges and universities, even before the student had applied. Although the students still needed to apply, the letters guaranteed the student a seat at any of the colleges listed in their Direct Admissions letter. The goal of the initiative was to encourage students to enroll in one of Idaho’s public colleges or universities through reducing the barriers to entry. It was designed to specifically encourage those students who had not yet decided on whether they would attend college. Idaho’s Direct Admissions process succeeded in positively influencing the enrollment and application behavior of those students who were identified as the target populations for the process.

As this dissertation is looking at student behavior, a framework of behavioral economics, specifically Prospect Theory and the Endowment Effect, is employed to guide the understanding of the outcomes of Direct Admissions. While the analysis specifically focuses on the Direct Admissions initiative, this dissertation provides a guide for broader application of behavioral economics as a framework for public administration research. Because the design of Direct Admissions adhered to the tenants of both Prospect Theory and the Endowment Effect, the process worked for the targeted students.

A mixed methods approach is used by looking at the student-level application and enrollment data for students participating in the program as well as survey responses from students who received the letter. A series of regressions are used to evaluate how the Direct Admissions letters are correlated with a change in college enrollment behavior. A survey of Idaho students who received a Direct Admissions was also used to measure the influence the Direct Admissions letters had in the college application behavior of the students.