Theses Doctoral

Policymaking for College Completion: How Foundations Develop their Higher Education Agendas

Lahr, Hana Elizabeth

This research examines how two prominent foundations (the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation) identify problems, develop potential solutions, and attempt to foster their adoption across states and higher education institutions. As foundations play an increasingly central role in shaping how education institutions are funded, how they deliver course content, structure academic programs, and deliver student support services, the importance of these questions increases as well.
This study draws on interviews with current and former foundation employees, as well as interviews with actors in consulting, advocacy, policy and research organizations, and extensive document analysis, to look beyond the foundations’ financial investments to examine how foundations and their grantees develop policy goals, strategies, and seek to affect education policy through ideas, research, and advocacy.
This study finds that foundations are undergoing a policy learning process, whereby they modify strategies based on new information, input from partner organizations, and past investments. Limits and challenges to this process are also observed. How foundations grapple with new information is important, because this study also finds that foundations are influential political actors within the higher education completion agenda. In partnership with intermediary organizations, foundations raise awareness of their goals, problem definitions, and solutions, and take an active role in seeking out support for their higher education agendas, affecting both state policy and higher education institutions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Education Policy
Thesis Advisors
Dougherty, Kevin J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 10, 2018