Researchers for the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University began tracking the students in 1997 and followed them until 2011. The students ranged from kindergarten level to fifth grade when the study began.
The research team found that 34 percent of the black students who received vouchers had become full-time college students by the time they turned 21, while only 26 percent of the control group had. Only 3 percent of the black students without vouchers were enrolled in selective colleges while 7 percent of those who had received vouchers were.
Vouchers had little impact on Hispanic students, researchers said. Too few white and Asian students were in the group to determine if vouchers affected them.
The study was headed by Matthew Chingos of the Brookings Institution and Paul Peterson of Harvard.
"The impacts on the college enrollment decisions of African-American students is striking, given the modest costs of the intervention, which came to a total of only $4,200 per pupil over a three-year period," Chingos said. "A class size reduction intervention in Tennessee that had a similar impact cost $12,000 per pupil."
Hispanic students in the group who did not receive vouchers appeared more likely to attend better public schools than black students who did not and were also more likely to go to college, the researchers said.