My 2022 Higher Education Finance Reading List

I am beyond excited to be back in the (virtual) classroom this spring, as I get to teach a course for the first time since spring 2020. I am teaching a remote synchronous PhD class in higher education finance as my first course at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Department heads here are expected to teach one course per year, and it was great to be asked to teach this course.

The last two times that I taught the course (spring 2020 and fall 2017), I shared my reading list for the class on this blog. I do not use a textbook for the course because the field is moving so quickly and there are more topics to cover than a textbook could ever include. Instead, I use articles, working papers, and other online resources to provide a current look at the state of higher education finance.

Here is the reading list I am assigning my students for the course. I link to the final versions of the articles whenever possible, but those without access to an academic library should note that earlier versions of many of these articles are available online via a quick Google search.

The higher education finance landscape and data sources

Lumina Foundation video series on federal financial aid:

Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N., Saez, E., Turner, N., & Yagan, D. (2017). Mobility report cards: The role of colleges in intergenerational mobility. Working paper. (link)

Schanzenbach, D. W., Bauer, L., & Breitwieser, A. (2017). Eight economic facts on higher education. The Hamilton Project. (link)

Webber, D. A. (2021). A growing divide: The promise and pitfalls of higher education for the working class. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 695, 94-106. (link)

Recommended data sources:

College Scorecard: (underlying data at

Equality of Opportunity Project:


NCES Data Lab:

Postsecondary Value Commission’s Equitable Value Explorer:

ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer:

Urban Institute’s Data Explorer:

Institutional budgeting

Barr, M.J., & McClellan, G.S. (2010). Understanding budgets. In Budgets and financial management in higher education (pp. 55-85). Jossey-Bass. (link)

Jaquette, O., Kramer II, D. A., & Curs, B. R. (2018). Growing the pie? The effect of responsibility center management on tuition revenue. The Journal of Higher Education, 89(5), 637-676. (link)

Rutherford, A., & Rabovsky, T. (2018). Does the motivation for market-based reform matter? The case of responsibility-centered management. Public Administration Review, 78(4), 626-639. (link)

University of Tennessee System’s FY2022 budget:

University of Tennessee System’s FY2020 annual financial report:

The financial viability of higher education

Ducoff, N. (2019, December 9). Students pay the price if a college fails. So why are we protecting failing institutions? The Hechinger Report. (link)

EY-Parthenon (2018). Transitions in higher education: Safeguarding the interests of students. (link)

Kelchen, R. (2020). Examining the feasibility of empirically predicting college closures. Brookings Institution. (link)

Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (2019). Final report & recommendations. Transitions in higher education: Safeguarding the interest of students (THESIS). (link)

Sullivan, G. W., & Stergios, J. (2019). A risky proposal for private colleges: Ten reasons why the Board of Higher Education must rethink its plan. Pioneer Institute. (link)

Tarrant, M., Bray, N., & Katsinas, S. (2018). The invisible colleges revisited: An empirical review. The Journal of Higher Education, 89(3), 341-367. (link)

Higher education expenditures

Archibald, R. B., & Feldman, D. H. (2018). Drivers of the rising price of a college education. Midwestern Higher Education Compact. (link)

Cheslock, J. J., & Knight, D. B. (2015). Diverging revenues, cascading expenditures, and ensuing subsidies: The unbalanced and growing financial strain of intercollegiate athletics on universities and their students. The Journal of Higher Education, 86(3), 417-447. (link)

Commonfund Institute (2021). 2021 higher education price index. (link)

Griffith, A. L., & Rask, K. N. (2016). The effect of institutional expenditures on employment outcomes and earnings. Economic Inquiry, 54(4), 1931-1945. (link)

Hemelt, S. W., Stange, K. M., Furquim, F., Simon, A., & Sawyer, J. E. (2021). Why is math cheaper than English? Understanding cost differences in higher education. Journal of Labor Economics, 39(2), 397-435. (link)

State sources of revenue

Chakrabarti, R., Gorton, N., & Lovenheim, M. F. (2020). State investment in higher education: Effects on human capital formation, student debt, and long-term financial outcomes of students. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 27885. (link)

Gándara, D. (2020). How the sausage is made: An examination of a state funding model design process. The Journal of Higher Education, 91(2), 192-221. (link)

Laderman, S., & Heckert, K. (2021). State higher education finance: FY 2020. State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. (link)

Lingo, M., Kelchen, R., Baker, D., Rosinger, K. O., Ortagus, J. C., & Wu, J. (2021). The landscape of state funding formulas for public colleges and universities. InformEd States. (link)

Odle, T., Lee, J. C., & Gentile, S. P. (2021). Do promise programs reduce student loans? Evidence from Tennessee Promise. The Journal of Higher Education, 92(6), 847-876. (link)

Ortagus, J. C., Kelchen, R., Rosinger, K. O., & Voorhees, N. (2020). Performance-based funding in American higher education: A systematic synthesis of the intended and unintended consequences. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(4), 520-550. (link)

Tennessee’s outcomes-based funding formula:–planning–and-research/fiscal-policy/redirect-fiscal-policy/outcomes-based-funding-formula-resources/redirect-outcomes-based-funding-formula-resources/2015-20-outcomes-based-funding-formula.html

Federal sources of revenue

Bergman, P., Denning, J. T., & Manoli, D. (2019). Is information enough? The effect of information about education tax benefits on student outcomes. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 38(3), 706-731. (link)

Cellini, S. R. (2010). Financial aid and for-profit colleges: Does aid encourage entry? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 29(3), 526-552. (link)

Gibbons, M. T. (2021, January 13). Universities report 5.7% growth in R&D spending in FY 2019, reaching $84 billion. National Science Foundation. (link)

Kelchen, R. (2019). An empirical examination of the Bennett Hypothesis in law school prices. Economics of Education Review, 73, Article 101915. (link)

Mok, S., & Shakin, J. (2018). Distribution of federal support for students pursuing higher education in 2016. Congressional Budget Office. (link)

College pricing, tuition revenue, and endowments

Baker, D. J. (2020). “Name and shame”: An effective strategy for college tuition accountability? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(3), 1-24. (link)

Baum, S., & Lee, V. (2018). Understanding endowments. Urban Institute. (link)

Cheslock, J. J., & Riggs, S. O. (2021). Psychology, market pressures, and pricing decisions in higher education: The case of the US private sector. Higher Education, 81, 757-774. (link)

Kramer II, D. A., Ortagus, J. C., & Lacy, T. A. (2018). Tuition-setting authority and broad-based merit aid: The effect of policy intersection on pricing strategies. Research in Higher Education, 59(4), 489-518. (link)

Ma, J., & Pender, M. (2021). Trends in college pricing and student aid 2021. The College Board. (link)

Webber, D. A. (2017). State divestment and tuition at public institutions. Economics of Education Review, 60, 1-4. (link)

Financial aid policies, practices, and impacts

Anderson, D. M., Broton, K. M., Goldrick-Rab, S., & Kelchen, R. (2020). Experimental evidence on the impacts of need-based financial aid: Longitudinal assessment of the Wisconsin Scholars Grant. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 39(3), 720-739. (link)

Bird, K., & Castleman, B. L. (2016). Here today, gone tomorrow? Investigating rates and patterns of financial aid renewal among college freshmen. Research in Higher Education, 57(4), 395-422. (link)

Guzman-Alvarez, A., & Page, L. C. (2021). Disproportionate burden: Estimating the cost of FAFSA verification for public colleges and universities. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 43(3), 545-551. (link)

Kelchen, R., Goldrick-Rab, S., & Hosch, B. (2017). The costs of college attendance: Examining variation and consistency in institutional living cost allowances. The Journal of Higher Education, 88(6), 947-971. (link)

Nguyen, T. D., Kramer, J. W., & Evans, B. J. (2019). The effects of grant aid on student persistence and degree attainment: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the causal evidence. Review of Educational Research, 89(6), 831-874. (link)

Student debt and financing college

Baker, D. J. (2019). When average is not enough: A case study examining the variation in the influences on undergraduate debt burden. AERA Open, 5(2), 1-26. (link)

Black, S. E., Denning, J. T., Dettling, L. J., Goodman, S., & Turner, L. (2020). Taking it to the limit: Effects of increased student loan availability on attainment, earnings, and financial well-being. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 27658. (link)

Boatman, A., Evans, B. J., & Soliz, A. (2017). Understanding loan aversion in education: Evidence from high school seniors, community college students, and adults. AERA Open, 3(1), 1-16. (link)

Ritter, D., & Webber, D. (2019). Modern income-share agreements in postsecondary education: Features, theory, applications. Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Discussion Paper 19-06. (link)

Scott-Clayton, J. (2018). What accounts for gaps in student loan default, and what happens after. Brookings Institution Evidence Speaks Report #57. (link)

Free college

Carruthers, C., Fox, W. F., & Jepsen, C. (2020). Promise kept? Free community college, attainment, and earnings in Tennessee. Working paper. (link)

*Collier, D. A., & Parnther, C. (2021). Conversing with Kalamazoo Promise scholars: An inquiry into the beliefs, motivations, and experiences of tuition-free college students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 22(4), 572-596. (link)

*Gándara, D., & Li, A. Y. (2020). Promise for whom? “Free-college” programs and enrollments by race and gender classifications at public, 2-year colleges. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(4), 603-627. (link)

Murphy, R., Scott-Clayton, J., & Wyness, G. (2017). Lessons from the end of free college in England. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution. (link)

Perna, L. W., Leigh, E. W., & Carroll, S. (2018). “Free college:” A new and improved state approach to increasing educational attainment? American Behavioral Scientist, 61(14), 1740-1756. (link)

Map of college promise/free college programs:

Returns to education

Darity, Jr., W. A., & Underwood, M. (2021). Reconsidering the relationship between higher education, earnings, and productivity. Postsecondary Value Commission. (link)

Deterding, N. M., & Pedulla, D. S. (2016). Educational authority in the “open door” marketplace: Labor market consequences of for-profit, nonprofit, and fictional educational credentials. Sociology of Education, 89(3), 155-170. (link)

Doyle, W. R., & Skinner, B. T. (2017). Does postsecondary education result in civic benefits? The Journal of Higher Education, 88(6), 863-893. (link)

Ma, J., Pender, M., & Welch, M. (2019). Education pays 2019: The benefits of higher education for individuals and society. The College Board. (link)

Webber, D. A. (2016). Are college costs worth it? How ability, major, and debt affect the returns to schooling. Economics of Education Review, 53, 296-310. (link)

Author: Robert

I am an a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville who studies higher education finance, accountability policies and practices, and student financial aid. All opinions expressed here are my own.

%d bloggers like this: