Laura W. Perna
Laura W. Perna is executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD), professor in the Graduate School of Education, Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Urban Research, and Penn Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. She has served as the Vice President of the Postsecondary Education Division (Division J) of the American Education Research Association (AERA) and is currently the President-elect of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE).
In 2003 Professor Perna received the Promising Scholar/Early Career Achievement Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education. In 2010 Penn honored her with Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching. In 2011 she received the Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
Dr. Perna’s research focuses on identifying the ways that social structures, educational practices, and public policies promote and limit college access and success particularly for individuals from lower-income families and racial/ethnic minority groups. Her scholarship demonstrates that differences in college enrollment and other outcomes depend on the resources and opportunities that are available in the communities in which students reside, the high schools they attend, the states in which they live, and other characteristics of the contexts in which they are embedded. A primary goal of her research is to improve the role of government policy (in the United States and other nations) in promoting educational attainment and human capital development.
Areas of expertise include: Access, choice, and equity in higher education; College finance and affordability; Federal and state involvement in pre-college and college education.
- Ph.D., Education, University of Michigan
- M.P.P., Policy Studies, University of Michigan
- B.S., Economics, University of Pennsylvania
- B.A., Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
James S. Riepe Professor; Executive Director, Penn AHEAD; Chair, Higher Education Division
Executive Director, Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy
Graduate School of Education
Capitol Hill Testimony
Dr. Laura Perna testified in front of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on states’ role in higher education. Click here to view the video of her testimony.
On April 30, 2015, Dr. Perna testified before The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training on ways to improve support for disadvantaged college students. Addressing the challenges facing these disadvantaged students “requires a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach and commitment from multiple players,” advised Professor Laura Perna.
Perna, L.W., & Hillman, N. (2017). Understanding student debt: Who borrows, the consequences of borrowing, and the implications for federal policy, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 671.
Cahalan, M., Perna, L.W., Yamashita, M., Ruiz, R., & Franklin, K. (2017). Indicators of higher education equity in the United States: An historic trend report, The Pell Institute of the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy.
Perna, L.W., & Ruiz, R. (2016). Technology: The solution to higher education’s pressing problems?, In American Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century, Johns Hopkins University Press, 432-461.
Perna, L.W. (2016). Throwing down the gauntlet: Ten ways to ensure the future of our research, Review of Higher Education, 39, 319-338.
Perna, L. W., Orosz, K., & Jumakulov, Z. (2015). Understanding the human capital benefits of a government-funded international scholarship program: An exploration of Kazakhstan’s Bolashak program, International Journal of Educational Development, 40, 85–97.
Perna, L. W., Orosz, K., Jumakulov, Z., Kishtentayeva, M., & Ashirbekov, A. (2015). Understanding the programmatic and contextual forces that influence participation in a government-sponsored student mobility program, Higher Education, 69, 173–188.
Perna, L. W., May, H., Yee, A., Ransom, T., Rodriguez, A., & Fester, R. (2015). Access to the international baccalaureate (IB) diploma programme: An exploration of opportunity to rigorous high school curricula, Educational Policy, 29(2), 402–425.
Perna, L. W., & Finney, J. (2014). The attainment agenda: State policy leadership in higher education, Johns Hopkins University Press.
Perna, L. W., & Orosz, K., with Gopaul, B., Jumakulov, Z., Ashirbekov, A., & Kishkentayeva, M. (2014). Promoting human capital development: A typology of international scholarship programs in higher education, Educational Researcher, 43(2), 63–73.
Perna, L. W., & Jones, A. (2013). The state of college access and completion: Improving college success for students from underrepresented groups, Routledge.
Perna, L. W. (2012). Preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs in Metropolitan America: The policy, practice, and research issues, University of Pennsylvania Press.
Perna, L. W., Harkavy, I., & Bowman, C. (2012). Understanding the role of research universities in improving college preparation and access at local urban high schools, Metropolitan Universities, 22(3), 63–82.
Perna, L. W., & Steele, P. (2011). The role of context in understanding the contributions of financial aid to college opportunity, Teachers College Record, 113, 895–933.
Perna, L. W. (2010). Understanding the working college student: New research and its implications for policy and practice, Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Dr. Perna testified before The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training on ways to improve support for disadvantaged college students. Addressing the challenges facing these disadvantaged students “requires a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach and commitment from multiple players,” advised Professor Laura Perna.