Capstone Courses and Projects

The Decline in Community Banks and its Impact on Small Business Lending
The Decline in Community Banks and its Impact on Small Business Lending This study investigated whether the recent wave of acquisitions of community banks by large banks has impacted access to credit for small businesses. This study looked at the total change in small business loans pre- and post-merger. The study found that there was no significant difference between the total amount of small business loans in mergers involving small, mid-sized, and large community banks. The study did find that post-merger portfolios of large banks acquiring mid-sized community banks had significantly increased the amount of loans between $100,000 and $250,000. When a large community bank merged with a large bank the study found that the portfolio of small business loans less than $100,000 actually declined.
An Evaluation of Arizona Drug Treatment and Education Fund: How is it Operating and Does it Work?
This study utilizes administrative data from the Arizona Drug Treatment and Education Fund from 1997-2003. The Capstone team utilized a combination of qualitative and quantitative strategies to conduct a preliminary evaluation of the program at the process and output levels. The team found some evidence that the program strays from its logic model from a lack of evidence supporting some basic activities and in the assignment of probationers to treatment. The team also found that urban residency is an important predictor of both program assignment and program completion. The data showed significant differences in the likelihood of success of the different treatment options, even after controlling for assessed need, risk, and disruption levels. The team hopes this research can be used to assist program staff in improving program processes and outcomes and improve the conditions for meaningful and targeted future evaluation.
Prisons and Rural Economies: Do Prisons Generate Economic Development Benefits to Host Counties?
The confluence of rural economic decline and a booming prison population led to a growth industry for prison construction in the 1980s. In the past 20 years, roughly 1,000 new prisons and jails have been built in the United States. Since 1980, approximately 350 rural counties have acquired new prisons, resulting in more than half of rural counties adding prison work to its available employment mix. Prior to the “prison boom” in the 1980s, 62 percent of the prison population was housed in facilities in metropolitan areas of more than 50,000 people. By the late 1990s, 69 percent of inmates were located in non-metro areas of fewer than 10,000 residents. The economic benefits of prison building in rural areas often seems selfevident to elected officials and their rural constituents. Prisons promise to bring relatively high-paying jobs to communities in decline. Across rural counties in the United States, prison building as economic development has become stated policy. Whether such perceived benefits actually accrue to host counties is the empirical question addressed by the current study.
The Impact of Income and Immigration on Residential Segregation: An Examination of Hispanic/White and Black/White Segregation in the 1990s
This study utilizes 1990 and 2000 Census data to examine the impact of income and immigration on residential segregation in the 1990s. The Capstone team confirms what researchers found in the 1980s: an increase in median Black income has only a slight, negative effect on Black residential segregation. However, the results refute earlier findings that Hispanics enjoy a substantial decrease in segregation as their median income increases. Rather, the effect of an increase in Hispanic income is barely larger than the effect of an increase in Black income on Black segregation. Furthermore, the results show that immigration factors significantly increase the degree of variation explained for Hispanic segregation but do little to explain Black segregation. Based on these findings, increasing minority income might do little to lessen residential segregation, though the team does not negate its importance in equalizing housing opportunities for minorities. Policymakers should develop updated, relevant policies that can either lessen the negative effects of or combat the causes of Hispanic and Black segregation.
The Impact of State Variations in Vehicle Mix: The Impact on Traffic Fatalities
The Capstone team measured the impact of variations in the vehicle population across the United States. In 1975, Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act in order to decrease dependence on foreign oil. As part of that Act, the government imposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards on passenger cars sold in the United States, which effectively set the goal of doubling the average fuel economy of these vehicles by 1985 to 27.5 miles per gallon. These standards did not apply to light trucks, which only made up about 10 percent of the vehicle population when the law was enacted. Today, light trucks account for almost 50 percent of the registered vehicles in the United States. Researchers have concluded that passenger cars have become consistently lighter over the last thirty years in response to CAFE standards. The team’s research looked into whether the increased presence of the heavier light trucks sharing the road with lighter passenger cars has increased the risk of death for the nation’s drivers.
The Power of the Pell Grant to Affect Black Enrollment in Higher Education
The Capstone team evaluated the influence of the Pell Grant on the enrollment of Black students in higher education institutions in 16 southern states, from 1988 to 1998. The Pell Grant is a federally funded program enacted in 1972 to provide basic tuition assistance to students enrolled in higher education programs. The Pell is a need-based grant that can be applied to degree and certificate programs at both two- and four-year colleges and universities. The program was designed to increase attendance by minority and low-income students. The impact of the Pell Grant Program on Black enrollment rates was examined, as were additional factors that may influence enrollment including income levels, tuition costs, and other sources of financial aid, including grants and loans.