Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

March 2023

Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Economics



Major Advisor

Kelly Chen, Ph.D.


Michail Fragkias, Ph.D.


Samia Islam, Ph.D.


The United States has experienced a substantial increase in tuition rates for higher education. At the national level free tuition at two-year public institutions has been one solution proposed by various leaders. The College of Southern Idaho (CSI) is a two-year public institution with an emphasis on serving the eight county South Central Idaho region. In the Summer of 2021, a year into the COVID pandemic, CSI leveraged federal COVID support funds to implement “First Eight on Us”. This first-dollar program provided students with up to eight credits for free, with minimal requirements. Then, in Summer 2022, a revised “First Six on Us” program was offered.

The objective of this study was to explore the impact of single semesters of free tuition on various student success outcomes. Outcomes considered included effort and course quality, which was aggregated from course evaluation data. In addition, grades in courses and subsequent enrollment in non-free semesters at CSI were analyzed using student information system data. Using a combination of linear and logistic regression, this analysis found the First Eight on Us program led to increased enrollment, moderate decrease in average grades, minor drop in self-reported effort, little-to-no impact on the perception of course quality, a positive impact in the percent of new student retention and, due to enrollment growth, an increase in the total number of new students retained into non-free semesters.


Included in

Economics Commons