The role of colleges within the higher education sector

Bernhard Eckwert*, Itzhak Zilcha

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Over the past decades, the (private) college sectors in the higher education systems of several European countries have expanded their capacities massively. This happened even though colleges have been at a competitive disadvantage with universities which are publicly subsidized, while colleges must self-finance through tuition fees. The question arises how, in equilibrium, a diverse student population is allocated between these institutions and which factors may account for the college expansion over time. Moreover, the efficiency properties of the resulting human capital accumulation process are of special interest. Our paper explores these questions within an information-based theoretical framework. Individuals are screened for their (unobservable) innate abilities, and the precision of the screening mechanism, which is endogenous, balances demand and supply of educational services. We find that in the short term, when the college capacity is fixed, the introduction of college subsidies is not desirable in most cases. In the long term, the college sector may expand excessively, thereby establishing inefficiently low screening standards in the admission process to higher education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-336
Number of pages22
JournalEconomic Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • College expansion
  • Efficiency
  • Equilibrium screening mechanism
  • Higher education


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