Sara Goldrick-Rab picture

Sara Goldrick-Rab

Professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology

Policy, Organizational, & Leadership Studies

Ritter Annex 419
1301 Cecil B. Moore Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19122
phone (215) 204-1740


  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania, Sociology
  • MA, University of Pennsylvania, Sociology
  • BA, George Washington University, Sociology (initial institution: College of William & Mary)
Areas of Professional Interest

I’m a scholar-activist committed to ameliorating inequities in college attainment.

My research and writing dissects the intended and unintended consequences of the college-for-all movement in the United States. In more than a dozen experimental, longitudinal, and mixed-methods studies, I’ve examined the efficacy and distributional implications of financial aid policies, welfare reform, transfer practices, and a range of interventions aimed at increasing college attainment among marginalized populations.

In 2013 I founded the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the nation’s first and only research laboratory aimed at finding ways to make college affordable. While at Temple University, I continue to work with my team at the HOPE Lab on an array of initiatives such as addressing food and housing insecurity in higher education and examining the efficacy of “promise” initiatives that aim to make college free. Over the coming years, I will be creating a new research center at Temple University that will continue and expand upon my earlier work. I seek new partners, teammates, and funders for this effort, and would love to hear from you if that interests you.

I established the Faculty And Students Together (FAST) Fund to cut out the bureaucracy and put money in the hands of teachers around the country—the people on the front line of this fight—in order to get emergency dollars to students swiftly. Thanks to the Grawemeyer Award for Education I will be matching all donations to the FAST Fund at a rate of three-to-one starting today and I will continue to match your donations until I have spent down the entire $100,000 prize that comes with the award. Learn more.

Here are some of my currently funded projects:

  • “The Price of STEM Success: Explaining the Impact of Need-Based Financial Aid on STEM Student Behavior” (Funded by National Science Foundation and Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation)
  • “Financial Aid Nudges: A National Experiment to Increase Retention of Financial Aid and College Persistence” (Funded by the Institute for Education Sciences)
  • “A Study of the Relationship between Material Hardship and College Academic Outcomes” (Funded by the Lumina Foundation)

I am committed to engaging with policymakers and practitioners. The following are some recent examples of my work:

  • #RealCollege: A National Convening on Food and Housing Insecurity Among Undergraduates. I worked with the Wisconsin HOPE Lab to design and host a meeting of federal, state, and local policymakers, practitioners, and institutions.
  • White House Domestic Policy Council Convening of Experts on Community Colleges. I supported the creation and execution of this meeting to discuss effective ways to make community college free.
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Keynote Lecture on Housing Insecurity among Community College Students.
  • Eastern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, Annual Meeting, Keynote Lecture.
  • Oregon State Senate and Oregon House of Representatives, Expert Testimony on the Oregon Promise.
  • Albert Shanker Institute, Board of Directors
  • American Federation of Teachers, Higher Education Program and Policy Council
  • U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, Expert Testimony

I frequently write for the public in an array of publications. Among my recent commentary:

Recent Scholarship

Selected Awards

  • Grawemeyer Award
  • Ranked the 13th most influential U.S. educational policy scholar, Education Week
  • American Educational Research Association, Early Career Award
  • William T. Grant Foundation Mentoring Award
  • William T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholars Award
  • American Educational Research Association, Outstanding Reviewer Award
  • National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship


Goldrick-Rab, S. (September 27, 2016) Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Kelly, A. & Goldrick-Rab, S. (Editors). (2014). Reinventing Financial Aid: Charting a New Course to College Affordability. Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, MA.

Shaw, K., Goldrick-Rab, S., Mazzeo, C., & Jacobs, J. (2006) Putting Poor People to Work: How the Work-First Idea Eroded College Access for the Poor.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Selected Articles, Chapters, and Reports

Goldrick-Rab, S. & Kolbe, T. (forthcoming) “A Matter of Trust: Applying Insights from Social Psychology to Make College Affordable.” Policy Insights from Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Broton, K., Goldrick-Rab, S. & Benson, J. (forthcoming) “Working for College: The Causal Impacts of Financial Grants on Undergraduate Employment.”  Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

Monaghan, D., Goldrick-Rab, S., & Kolbe, T.  (forthcoming). “Experimental Evidence on Interventions to Improve Educational Attainment at Community Colleges.” In B. Schneider (Ed), Handbook of Sociology of Education in the 21st Century.

Goldrick-Rab, S., Kelchen, R., Harris, D., & Benson, J. (2016). “Reducing Income Inequality in Higher Education: Experimental Evidence on the Impact of Financial Aid on College Completion.” American Journal of Sociology. 121, no. 6: 1762-1817.

Goldrick-Rab, S., Broton, K. & Colo, E. (2016).  Expand the National School Lunch Program to Higher Education. Wisconsin HOPE Lab, Madison WI.

Goldrick-Rab, S. & Kendall, N. (2016). The Real Price of College. Century Foundation: NY.

Eisenberg, D., Goldrick-Rab, S., Lipson, S. & Broton, K. (2016). Too Distressed to Learn? Mental Health Among Community College Students  Wisconsin HOPE Lab, Madison WI.

Monaghan, D. & Goldrick-Rab, S. (2016).  Is Community College Already Free? Wisconsin HOPE Lab, Madison WI.

Dachelet, K. & Goldrick-Rab, S. (2015).  Investing in Student Completion: Overcoming Financial Barriers to Retention Through Small-Dollar Grants and Emergency-Aid Programs. Wisconsin HOPE Lab, Madison WI.

Goldrick-Rab, S. & Kelchen, R. (2015). "Making Sense of Loan Aversion: Evidence from Wisconsin." In Student Loans and the Dynamics of Debt, B. Hershbein and K. Hollenbeck, eds. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, pp. 317-378.

Kelchen, R. & Goldrick-Rab, S. (2015) “Accelerating College Knowledge: A Fiscal Analysis of a Targeted Early Commitment Pell Grant Program.” Journal of Higher Education, 86(2): 199-232.

Kinsley, P. & Goldrick-Rab, S. (2015). “Making the Grade: The Academic Side of College Life Among Financial Aid Recipients.” In A. Stich and C. Freire (Eds), The Working Classes and Higher Education: Inequality of Access, Opportunity, and Outcome.

Goldrick-Rab, S. & Kendall, N. (2014). Redefining College Affordability: Securing America’s Future with a Free Two Year College Option. Lumina Foundation.

Goldrick-Rab, S., Broton, K. & Frank, V. (2014). Single Stop USA’s Community College Initiative: Implementation Assessment. Wisconsin HOPE Lab, Madison WI.

Brand, J., & Pfeffer, F. & Goldrick-Rab, S. (2014) “Interpreting Community College Effects in the Presence of Heterogeneity and Complex Counterfactuals.” Sociological Science.

Goldrick-Rab, S.  (2010). “Challenges and Opportunities for Improving Community College Student Outcomes.” Review of Educational Research. 80(3): 437-469.

Goldrick-Rab, S. & Sorensen, K. (2010). “Unmarried Parents in College.” Future of Children, v20(2): 179-203.

Goldrick-Rab, S. & Pfeffer, F. (2009).  “Beyond Access: Explaining Social Class Differences in College Transfer.”  Sociology of Education. 82(2), 101–125. (2009)

Goldrick-Rab, S.  (2006). “Following Their Every Move:  How Social Class Shapes Postsecondary Pathways.”  Sociology of Education. January, v79n1. pp. 61-79.