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Improving College Instruction through Incentives

In a field experiment, we examine the impact of performance-based incentives for community college instructors. Instructor incentives improve student exam scores, course grades, and credit accumulation while reducing course dropout. Effects are largest among part-time adjunct instructors. During the program, instructor incentives have large positive spillovers, increasing completion rates and grades in students’ courses outside our study. One year after the program, instructor incentives increase transfer rates to 4-year colleges with no impact on 2-year college degrees. We find no evidence of complementarities between instructor incentives and student incentives. Finally, while instructors initially prefer gain-framed contracts over our loss-framed ones, preferences for loss-framed contracts significantly increase after experience with them.