Evaluating the Talent Search TRIO Program: A Benefit-Cost Analysis and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version



Talent Search was created to improve high school completion and college enrollment for disadvantaged students. Since the program’s inception in 1967, there has not been a valid study on its economic value. In this paper, we perform a full economic evaluation, yielding direct information on the value of Talent Search and highlighting key methodological issues relating to economic evaluations of education programs. We provide rigorous estimates of social costs using the ingredients method. Using prior estimates of impacts from Constantine et al. [(2006). Study Of The Effect of The Talent Search Program On Secondary And Postsecondary Outcomes In Florida, Indiana And Texas: Final Report From Phase II of The National Evaluation. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service], we perform a cost-benefit analysis based on new estimates of shadow prices. Finally, to examine site-specific differences in impacts and costs, we undertake cost-effectiveness analysis and derive confidence intervals that illustrate key sensitivity issues. Regarding costs, we find significant resource use beyond federal funding amounts; but we also find that the present value benefits of Talent Search almost certainly exceed the present value of costs by a substantial margin. With regard to cost-effectiveness, we find significant differences across sites and extremely wide confidence intervals. We conclude with an outline of key research issues that need to be addressed to enhance future economic evaluations in educational settings with wide site-specific variation.


benefit-cost analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, costs, efficiency, human capital, rate of return



Date Posted: 19 May 2023

This document has been peer reviewed.