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Sara Goldrick-Rab

Professor of Educational Policy Studies & Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sara Goldrick-Rab is a Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Founding Director at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. She is also Senior Scholar at the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education and an affiliate of the Center for Financial Security, Institute for Research on Poverty, La Follette School of Public Affairs, and the Consortium for Chicago School Research.

Goldrick-Rab’s commitment to scholar-activism is evidenced by her broad profile of research and writing dissecting 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 research projects, she has 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. She recently published a column on the importance of scholarly activism in the Contexts blog of the American Sociological Association.

She provides extensive service to local, state, and national communities, working directly with governors and state legislators to craft policies to make college more affordable, collaborating with non-profit organizations seeking to examine the effects of their practices, and providing technical assistance to Congressional staff, think tanks, and membership organizations throughout Washington, DC. In spring 2013, Goldrick-Rab testified about her work on college affordability before the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Senators Tom Harkin and Lamar Alexander.

Her academic articles have appeared in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Sociology of Education, Review of Educational Research, and Teachers College Record among other peer-reviewed outlets, and she also publishes regularly for broader audiences in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, as well as on her blog The Education Optimists. In 2014, Harvard Education Press is releasing her latest book, Reinventing Financial Aid Charting a New Course to College Affordability, co-edited with Andrew P. Kelly.

In 2006, Goldrick-Rab was named a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation postdoctoral fellow, and in 2010 she received the five-year Faculty Scholars Award from the William T. Grant Foundation for her project, “Rethinking College Choice in America.” In 2014, the American Educational Research Association honored Goldrick-Rab with its Early Career Award.


  • –present
    Professor of Educational Policy Studies & Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Early Career Award, American Educational Research Association