College of Education to study state funding for higher education

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State College of Education will study state funding for higher education and how states can design equitable funding policies, with grant 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 examine how variations in state funding approaches shape college outcomes, particularly among low-income and racially minoritized students.

Kelly Rosinger Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

Kelly Rosinger, assistant professor of education, is the principal investigator for the project, along with co-principal investigators Justin Ortagus, an alumnus of the Penn State College of Education and assistant professor at the University of Florida; Robert Kelchen, associate professor at Seton Hall University; and Dominique Baker, assistant professor at Southern Methodist University. The research team was awarded the $549,947 grant for the project, titled “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.”

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.

“Any impacts from prior recessions are likely to be magnified by subsequent economic downturns because funding levels for colleges haven’t been restored to their pre-recession levels,” Rosinger said. “Our project seeks to offer insight into how states can allocate money in effective and equitable ways given the restraints they’re likely going to be facing in coming years.”

Rosinger’s research examines the barriers that students, particularly low-income and racially minoritized students, face during the college-going process and how educational policies can be designed to reduce inequities in postsecondary outcomes. She has been part of the InformEd States project since its inception three years ago and has served as co-principal investigator on grants to support prior and ongoing work that examines the impacts of performance-based funding policies — through which states tie a portion of state funds to student outcomes — on college access and success.

Last Updated August 27, 2020