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Research Projects

This project focused on synthesizing the effects of grant aid to undergraduates. Grants, defined as money that reduces college costs and does not have to be repaid, may be awarded based on financial need and/or academic merit, place of residence, or other criteria. Aid includes grants, scholarships, “free tuition,” tuition waivers, and subsidies. Tuition-price setting, athletic scholarships, individual tax savings accounts, work study, and aid programs requiring service are excluded. Aid programs that are bundled together and do not analyze the effect of one specified aid program are also excluded. Studies of the elimination or loss of grant aid meeting these intervention criteria were included and analyzed separately from the studies evaluating effects of the presence of grant aid. Studies that met inclusion criteria featured seven different types of grant aid programs: 1) federal grants, 2) national scholarships, 3) state-sponsored grants, 4) institutional grants, 5) student performance-based financial incentives, 6) emergency financial assistance, and 7) promise programs.

Improving university governance and supporting trustees and administrators as they address today’s most pressing challenges are essential for a robust higher education sector. The Penn Project on University Governance engages and collaborates with trustees, administrators, policy makers, faculty leaders, and other key stakeholders to improve governance and advance their universities, colleges, and state systems.

Today, international rankings exert a great deal of influence on higher education policies in many countries. However, these rankings tend to disproportionately benefit institutions that are older, wealthier, larger, and research focused. They do not take into account many other important factors including student success and the impact these institutions have in their localities and regions. They fail to recognize the many ways institutions can be impactful and “excellent” based on their unique missions and histories. This research seeks to hold up new models of institutional excellence and to show the pathways various institutions have followed to achieve excellence on their own terms. The work will involve developing detailed case studies of approximately a dozen institutions in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.

The Board Culture Profile will help boards take better advantage of their cultural strengths, reveal possible blindspots, and mitigate weaknesses as they relate to the work they are facing and the contexts in which they operate.

This project is intended to improve the availability and use of data documenting trends in the status of inequity in higher education opportunity and outcomes.

This project is designed to improve research-based knowledge that can inform understanding of how to design and structure a promise program to achieve particular goals and outcomes.

This project is intended to improve knowledge of the policies and practices that will effectively improve higher education attainment especially among groups that are historically underrepresented in higher education.

This project has two components: (1) “Institutional predictors” uses data from IPEDS and the Delta Cost Project to identify potential levers that public and private not-for-profit four-year institutions may use to improve graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients. (2) “Questioning the Calculations” examines the cost-related information that colleges and universities are providing on their websites.

Read More about Questioning the Calculations


This project focuses on addressing the following question: How can changes in conversations around Lumina's federal policy priorities be measured and monitored?