Capstone Courses and Projects

Drug Abuse and Enforcement: Impact of Regulatory Controls on Prescription Drug Abuse
In recent decades, prescription drug abuse has risen dramatically in the United States due to changes in medical attitudes and practices. This shift has resulted not only in a wider distribution of opioids for the treatment of chronic and non-chronic pain, but also to increases in non-medical opioid abuse, dependence, and accidental death. States have responded to this growing crisis with a variety of enforcement and monitoring policies, including Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). PDMPs are statewide patient prescription history databases made accessible to physicians, pharmacies, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders in an effort to enhance surveillance of individual medication consumption patterns. If effective, PDMPs can be a tool to prevent “doctor shopping” and diversion, consequently leading to lower rates of addiction and accidental overdose. This study analyzes the extent to which PDMPs and their specific characteristics reduce these outcomes in individual states.
The Effect of New Immigrant High Schools on Immigrant Students’ Academic and Social Performance: Causal Evidence from New York City Public High Schools
Over the past fifteen years, English Language Learners (ELLs) have comprised between 12 and 17 percent of the New York City student population. Since these students face different educational challenges than their native-born and English proficient counterparts, the New York City Department of Education uses a variety of English language instruction methods to help students succeed socially and academically. This study evaluates the effectiveness of newcomer and immigrant secondary education programs in New York City. Additionally, by using a rich administrative data set, as well as student-level surveys, this study examines the effect of newcomer/international high schools on academic outcomes and students’ attitude about their learning environment.
An Evaluation of New York City’s Stop, Question, and Frisk Policy
New York City’s stop, question, and frisk (SQF) policy has been the topic of much debate and controversy, related to both the perception of race-based disparities in implementation, as well as the effectiveness of the policy in reducing crime. Using SQF data, and Compstat crime statistics, the Capstone team aimed to answer the question of whether the level of crime is a significant predictor of the intensity of SQF activity. Using regression models and controlling for other influencers of crime rates (e.g. weather), the team examined how accurately historical crime rates can predict future levels of crime, and then focused on the relationship of the SQF variable to crime on a precinct-by-precinct basis in order to identify whether SQF results in a reduction in crime.
Federal Student Aid and Loan Default Rates at Postsecondary Institutions
Tuition costs at colleges and universities have risen dramatically in recent years, due in part to state and federal higher education funding cuts. As a result, students are taking on heavy debt burdens to fund the high cost of a college degree, amounting to roughly $1 trillion in outstanding federal student loans with over $120 billion of those loans currently in default. Previously, postsecondary institutions with 2-year default rates above 25% could lose eligibility for federal aid. After Congress demanded more disclosure, a new measure will take effect in 2014 that requires institutions to be held to a 3-year default rate standard. This study explores the recently released data by the Department of Education on 2- and 3-year federal student loan default rates, and the strategic behavior on the part of postsecondary institutions to extend default rates in order to continue receiving federal loans.
The Influence of Micro Food-Environments on Food Consumption and BMI Outcomes
The rise in obesity rates has increased interest around the “food environment,” or the availability of healthy and unhealthy foods in a community. While there is considerable focus on the influence of food environments, studies that attempt to link “micro” food-environments to eating and weight outcomes are limited in scope. The study attempts to model “micro” food-environments defined as food sources available in close proximity to an individual’s residence. The Capstone team first validated and expanded upon existing national commercial data on food retail and restaurant outlets in two Bronx, NY communities, and then developed a health index to characterize each outlet. Combining food environment characteristics with detailed consumption data for 2,500 Bronx residents, the team assessed to what degree proximity to food sources predicts an individual’s eating patterns and BMI. The results of this study can help shape policy interventions focused on overcoming the obesity epidemic.