Ruhr Economic Papers

Ruhr Economic Papers #404

The Effect of Tuition Fees on Student Enrollment and Location Choice – Interregional Migration, Border Effects and Gender Differences

by Björn Alecke, Claudia Burgard and Timo Mitze

RGS Econ, RUB, RWI, 02/2013, 30 S./p., 8 Euro, ISBN 978-3-86788-459-4 DOI: 10.4419/86788459



This paper investigates the effects of tuition fees on the university enrollment and
location decision of high school graduates in Germany. After a Federal Constitutional
Court decision in 2005, 7 out of 16 German federal states introduced tuition fees for
higher education. In the empirical analysis, we use the variation over time and across
regions in this institutional change in order to isolate the causal effect of tuition
fees on student enrollment and migration. Controlling for a range of regional- and
university-specific effects, our results from Difference-in-Differences estimations show
that there is generally no effect of tuition fees on internal enrollment rates. However,
we find a redirecting effect on first-year students‘ migratory behavior as indicated by
a signicant drop in the gross in-migration rates in fee-charging states. Further, our
results point at a stronger migration response of male students, which, however, can
mainly be attributed to a “border effect”. That is, interregional migration flows of
male students are redirected from fee-charging universities to those universities that
are geographically close by while being located in a non-charging neighboring state.
Controlling for these border effects, the relocating trend in long-distance migration of
university freshmen does not show any particular gender differences.

JEL-Classification: D04, I23, J16, R23

Keywords: Tuition fees; gender differences; higher education; student migration; policy evaluation; Difference-in-Differences