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.