Gándara Becomes a William T. Grant Scholar and Pursues Five-year Research on Free-college Programs

Denisa Gándara, assistant professor of higher education, is a faculty member in the Dept. of Education Policy and Leadership, Simmons School.

Assistant Profesor of Higher Education Denisa Gándara is one of  five early-career researchers selected by the William T. Grant Foundation to receive $350,000 “to execute rigorous five-year research plans that stretch their skills and knowledge into new disciplines, content areas, or methods.”

Gándara will examine how the administrative burdens of free-college programs, such as eligibility criteria and application processes, impact college enrollment and degree completion for racially or ethnically minoritized students. She aims to provide a more complete understanding of how administrative burdens affect students from different racial or ethnic groups, and, ultimately, to inform program design in ways that help reduce gaps in program take-up and degree attainment.

“By supporting their research agendas and professional development, the William T. Grant Scholars Program seeks to contribute to a bright new generation of scholars who will bring rigorous research to youth policies, programs, and practices in the U.S.,” said the Grant Foundation’s Senior Vice President Vivian Tseng.

Ed.D. Student Valerio Parrot Publishes Washington Post Op-ed on Reforming College Athletics

Teresa Valerio Parrot, a higher education doctoral student in Simmons, offers a good historical perspective in a Washington Post Op-ed on efforts to reform college athletics for a century. Despite these, nothing has really happened, she says. “Real change and reform will occur only when leaders are willing to rethink this prioritization of profits and turn down the endorsement and media dollars associated with competition.”  Read the article here.

Michael Harris Weighs In on Legislature’s Proposed Bills to Restrict Faculty Tenure

Professor Michael Harris, Dept. of Education Policy and Leadership, Simmons School.

The Texas Tribune cited Professor Michael Harris’s observations on a bill proposing to revoke faculty tenure should professors file a civil lawsuit against students. Harris, whose primary research centers on the organization and governance of higher education, is interim chair of the Department of Education Policy and Leadership in Simmons and directs the Center for Teaching Excellence at SMU.

At issue is a UT Austin professor who sued some students for libel after they accused him of promoting pedophilia in his research. “This is legislative micromanagement that will have little impact on improving faculty work, teaching, research, service, the student experience,” Harris said.“This is more about scoring political points than anything having to do with what’s actually happening in the classroom.” Read the full article here.

Baker Testifies Before US Senate on Student Debt Burden and Effect on Borrowers, Racial Justice, and Economy

 

Dr. Dominique Baker, Dept. of Education Policy and Leadership, Simmons School

Dominique Baker, assistant professor of education policy, was asked to testify about student debt before the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, chaired by Elizabeth Warren, April 13. Baker’s statements illustrated the burden of student debt upon the economy and its impact on racial justice.

COVID-19 may have made inequities clearer, she said, but the federal financial aid system has for a long time disproportionately impacted students of color, low-income students, and students from other underrepresented communities in higher education.

She also addressed student loan cancellation. “Large-scale debt forgiveness could not only avert a potential wave of student loan defaults and allow for greater participation in the consumer market but also could encourage students who have left college to re-enroll, a current goal sought by many education experts,” she added.

The implicit promise of finding good jobs based on borrowing money and working hard in college doesn’t often deliver, she said.

To watch her testimony, click here and forward to 2:14:00 and 2:28:00 marks in the video.

Click here for printed testimony.

Baker Recognized with Early Career Award for Outstanding Research in Ed Policy

Dominique Baker received the 2021 Early Career Award from the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP). Baker is an assistant professor of education policy in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

Each year, AEFP, a non-profit academic and professional organization, gives its Early Career Award to a junior scholar who shows an exemplary early career trajectory and whose research substantially contributes to the field of education finance and policy.

Baker received the award in March at the association’s annual conference. She also received a $1,000 award for the promise and contributions she’s shown to the field.

Baker joined SMU (Southern Methodist University) in 2016. Her research focuses on how education policy affects and shapes the access and success of minoritized students in higher education. She primarily investigates student financial aid, affirmative action and admissions policies, as well as policies that influence the ability to create an inclusive and equitable campus climate.

Her research has been published in a variety of journals, including the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Journal of Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, and Teachers College Record. Her work and expertise have also been highlighted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed, among others.

“I’m delighted to have my work recognized by AEFP,” Baker says. “Education policy has the ability to transform lives, but only if thoughtfully constructed based on evidence that includes the experiences of the folks directly impacted. I look forward to continuing to promote justice by focusing on the ways that policies distribute power and resources.”

 

 

AERA/UCEA Names Ph.D. Candidate Mark Pierce a Clark Scholar

Mark Pierce, a Ph.D. student in Education Policy and Leadership, was named a Clark Scholar by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), Divisions A and L of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and SAGE Publications.

During two days of presentations, emerging educational administration and policy scholars and noted researchers come together for generative discussion and professional growth. The majority of Clark Scholars go on to become professors at major research institutions around the world. This year’s seminar will be held at the beginning of the 2021 AERA virtual meeting.

Pierce’s Ph.D. advisor is Assistant Professor Alexandra Pavlakis.

Roxanne Burleson Explains Factors Determining School Closures during Pandemic

In a Dallas Morning News article about decisions that education leaders may make to close schools during COVID 19, Clinical Associate Professor Roxanne Burleson offers insight into some determining factors.

She cites equity issues, such as access to the internet, meals, and health concerns, that can impact decisions. Read the article here.

Burleson is Director of the Accelerated Leadership Program within the Simmons School. She spent thirty-one years in public education as a teacher, middle school and high school principal, and assistant superintendent for Plano ISD.

Baker Publishes Research on Hate Crimes and Impact on Black Student College Enrollments

Dominique Baker, Ph.D., Education Policy and Leadership

Dominique Baker, assistant professor in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership, examines how reports of hate crimes –both on a state and campus level–affect the college enrollments of Black students.

She and co-author Tolani Britton from the University of California, Berkeley, set out to see the role hate crimes may play in college enrollment decisions. They also look at whether hate crimes reported at individual institutions correlate with the enrollment patterns of Black students.

Their findings show an increase in reports of state-level hate crimes predicts a 20% increase in Black first-time student enrollment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The study, published by Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, can be read here. HigherEdDive.com also wrote about the research here.

 

 

Gándara’s New Study on Free-College Programs Reveals Large Enrollments of Underserved Students

Assistant Professor of Higher Education Denisa Gándara and Amy Li at Florida International University conducted a study of 33 U.S. public community college promise programs, or free-college programs, and found that they are associated with large enrollment increases of first-time, full-time students—with the biggest boost in enrollment among Black, Hispanic, and female students.

The results come as the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is leading states to tighten higher education budgets, as low-income students are forgoing their post secondary plans at higher rates this fall than their wealthier peers, and as community colleges are experiencing larger enrollment declines than four-year universities. The study was published  in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

The research is the first on this topic to examine the effects of multiple promise programs on enrollment at community colleges across the country. For their study, the authors analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, for academic years 2000–01 to 2014–15, to examine the impact of 33 promise programs at 32 community colleges.

Gándara and Li found that, on average, overall enrollments at the community colleges with promise programs increased 23 percent more than at the seven geographically nearest public community colleges without promise programs. Compared to the nearest seven community colleges, promise colleges experienced a 47 percent greater enrollment increase of Black males, a 51 percent greater enrollment of Black females, a 40 percent greater enrollment of Hispanic males, and a 52 percent greater enrollment of Hispanic females. The only groups that did not, on average, experience an enrollment boost associated with promise programs were Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (API) males and females.

“Prior to the pandemic, promise programs were an increasingly popular mechanism for enhancing college entry and postsecondary attainment,” Gándara said. “Our study offers compelling evidence, and reinforces evidence from prior research, of the benefits of such programs in achieving college enrollment goals.”

 

Baker to Work on Grant Studying State Funding for Higher Ed

Dominique Baker, assistant professor of education policy at Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, joins a research team led by the College of Education at Penn State University to study state funding for higher education and how states can design equitable funding policies with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The grant will support a two-year project that will focus on three main policy issues: how states fund colleges, funding disparities among community colleges, and how states fund students through financial aid. In addition to compiling detailed data from a nearly two-decade period related to those policy issues, the research team will also examine how variations in state funding approaches shape college outcomes, particularly among low-income and racially minoritized students.

Baker is a co-principal investigator with Kelly Rosinger, principal investigator for the project and an assistant professor at Penn State University. Other co-principal investigators include Justin Ortagus, assistant professor at the University of Florida, and Robert Kelchen, associate professor at Seton Hall University. The research team was awarded a $549,947 grant for the project, “Equity and Effectiveness of State Higher Education Funding Policies.”

The research team, along with a team of graduate students at Penn State and the University of Florida, comprises the InformEd States project, a clearinghouse for policy analysis, original research, data, and rigorous evidence on the equity and effectiveness of state higher education funding policies.

“States have taken various approaches to funding colleges and student financial aid, and our project will capture these variations over a nearly two-decade period.” Rosinger said. “We will then examine how these approaches relate to student outcomes in an effort to provide policymakers with evidence for how to design effective and equitable policies.”

For her part of the research, Baker will seek a better understanding of how financing, both for colleges and students, varies across the United States. “By deepening our understanding of that variation, we can begin to see what strategies are linked to student success, particularly for students of color or from low-income backgrounds,” she said.

The InformEd States team plans to tackle the current economic challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic head-on with a rapid response segment that will take place in fall 2020. That part of the project will focus on providing state policymakers with evidence-based information through policy briefs and webinars regarding approaches for allocating severely diminished state funds in equitable and effective ways.