Robert Kelchen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Education Leadership, Management and Policy is one of seven recipients to be awarded grants from the AccessLex Institute and the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) through their Research and Dissertation Fellows Program. The program is funded by AccessLex Institute and administered by AIR to promote scholarship on issues related to access, affordability and the value of legal education specifically, and graduate and professional education more broadly. Grants of up to $50,000 for scholars and $25,000 for doctoral students are made available to help fund year-long research projects. This is the second year these awards have been made.
Kelchen's $32,322 research grant will examine whether professional programs raised tuition prices at higher rates following the 2006 creation of the Grad PLUS program and the 2007 expansion of income-driven repayment programs.
According to Kelchen, a key higher education policy debate over the last several decades is whether the availability of federal financial aid dollars has encouraged colleges to raise their prices. This idea, known as the "Bennett Hypothesis" after former Education Secretary William Bennett, has been studied by a number of researchers at the undergraduate level with occasionally mixed results.
"In 2006, the federal government changed the amount of money that students could borrow for graduate and professional programs from $18,500 per year to the full cost of attendance-which can often be over $50,000 per year. Yet nobody has studied whether colleges raised their prices in response to students being able to borrow more money-what I am doing in this study." states Kelchen.
As the amount of graduate student debt continues to grow, increased attention has motivated Congress to begin discussions on reauthorizing the federal Higher Education Act. Kelchen hopes to ultimately influence public policy decisions by providing the first rigorous evaluation of the effects of changing graduate student debt limits.
Robert Kelchen's research interests focus on higher education finance and accountability policies, including areas such as student financial aid, college rankings, and program evaluation. His teaching interests include education finance, research methods, institutional research and planning, and organization and governance. He has recent articles published in The Review of Higher Education, Journal of Education Finance, and Journal of Student Financial Aid. His work as a methodologist for Washington Monthly magazine's annual college rankings won an award for best data journalism from the Education Writers Association. He was recently selected as one of the 15 most indispensable academics on Twitter by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The Department of Education Leadership, Management and Policy in the College of Education and Human Services is dedicated to serving students seeking educational leadership roles in public, private and parochial schools, colleges, universities, non-profit organizations and other education policy organizations.