A paper examining parents’ experiences with the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship program that was presented at an international conference by NC State College of Education doctoral student Daniela Barriga has been named the first place winner of the 2020 International Conference on School Choice and Reform Patrick Wolf Best Paper Award.
“Out of Pocket? Out of Reach: How Hidden Costs Affect Participation in a Means-Tested School Choice Program” was co-authored by Assistant Professor Anna Egalite, Ph.D., Professor Lance Fusarelli, Ph.D., Barriga, Friday Institute for Educational Innovation Research Associate Emily Antoszyk, and Friday Institute Director of Policy Research Trip Stallings, Ph.D.
As the first place winner, the authors will receive a financial award and have the paper published in an upcoming special edition of the Journal of School Choice.
“I feel honored that this paper was chosen for this award and I believe it means this paper shows meaningful insight into the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship and what can be considered to make it accessible for more families,” Barriga said. “I am also grateful for the mentorship I received from my co-authors, their invitation to help with the research on this paper and the skills I have learned.”
“Out of Pocket?” examines how low-income parents who apply for the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship program navigate obstacles to participation that include program eligibility requirements, difficulty acquiring program information to assist with the application process, inadequate academic preparation of students and financial barriers. The authors explore how hidden costs can impact voucher use, even with financial assistance, and the impact their findings have on educational policy.
Barriga, a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development department in the program area of study in educational evaluation and policy analysis, traveled to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in January to present the paper at the International Conference on School Choice and Reform.
“I was a bit nervous, because it was my first time presenting in a paper session at an academic conference, but we got great feedback which we were able to incorporate into our work,” she said.
During her time at the conference, Barriga said she enjoyed meeting school choice scholars from around the world and within the United States and having the opportunity to network with so many professionals from the field.
Her research into school choice began during her master’s program, when she examined why families facing social and economic disadvantages choose to enroll their children in low-performing schools. Her work on that project sparked further interest in school choice and reform. Upon completion of her doctoral program, she hopes her work can help families be informed to make the best decisions for their children and help provide equal opportunities for all children to receive the best education possible.