Susan Dynarski Tribute

Since 2008, Sue Dynarski has been one of the Ford School's most active faculty working to reform public education, fighting for educational equity and inclusiveness, and training the next generation of education policy experts. She has taught hundreds of Fordies the intricacies of program evaluation, statistics, econometrics, regression analysis, and causal inference. And she has used those same tools to remove barriers to educational opportunities through policy change.

In order to be closer to family and friends and return to the community where she was born and raised and where she began her first career as a Union organizer, Sue is leaving U-M to join the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Through July, we will highlight her work on this page and will be collecting alumni stories and well wishes through this form. 

We will miss you, Sue, and wish you well in your new role and your return to Boston! 


Sue fights for educational equity and advocates for inclusivity at every opportunity. She is transforming access to higher education."

Dean Michael S. Barr


Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Sue found that just four questions on the FAFSA could explain 90 percent of the variation in financial aid eligibility. Her research and advocacy led to a new form. Starting in 2023, the FAFSA will include just 33 questions from the original 108, and applicants will also be able to directly transfer tax information from the IRS.
Read more about this success

Advocating for a Simplified Loan Repayment System

New research shows the powerful effects of default options and how making an income driven repayment (IDR) plan the default or only option can help borrowers avoid student loan default.
Read more
Amanpour and Dynarski
Amanpour and Dynarski (CNN/PBS)

FAFSA and loan repayment media

HAIL Scholarship

High Achieving Involved Leader (HAIL) Scholars

In 2015, Sue and her colleagues set out to address disparities in applications to selective universities like U-M. Their research led them to help design and evaluate the wildly successful HAIL Scholars program. HAIL students were more than twice as likely to apply to, gain admission, and enroll at the University of Michigan than students who did not receive the HAIL scholarship offer.
Learn more about HAIL

Cost should never be a barrier to in-state students seeking to study at the University of Michigan. This research has given us important data that has helped us design programs that provide greater access to the life-changing educational opportunities at a top public research university."

President Mark Schlissel

Building research partnerships

At the K-12 level, Sue saw a need for better access to data about Michigan students, and along with Professor Brian Jacob, helped broker a partnership with the Michigan Department of Education, the Center for Educational Performance and Information, Michigan State University, and the Education Policy Initiative at the Ford School. Together, the collaboration created the  Michigan Education Research Institute (MERI), which supports research to improve education for all students in Michigan. In this partnership, EPI's Michigan Education Data Center (MEDC) operates as a secure data clearinghouse.

Sue has also established formal research collaborations with other notable state education agencies, such as Massachusetts and Tennessee, and engages with local education practitioners and researchers at other leading universities.

Powerful data resource

Michigan Education Data Center (MEDC)

MEDC brings together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to solve pressing questions to improve student outcomes. It is the repository for 5 million education records from across the state of Michigan. More than 70 research projects use the data, focusing on early childhood education, school choice and mobility, literacy, P-20 pathways, and college success.
Learn more about MEDC

The MERI Partnership and Michigan Education Data Center can empower and equip our leaders with the research they need to make evidence-based decisions that advance just and equitable learning opportunities, assessments, and educational systems." 

Dean of the U-M School of Education Elizabeth Birr Moje
Causal inference training

Preparing the next generation of education policy researchers

Since 2015, Susan Dynarski has led U-M's interdisciplinary Causal Inference in Education Policy Research (CIEPR) predoctoral training program, which prepares doctoral students to design, implement, and analyze research to evaluate the casual impacts of education programs and policies in partnerships with educational agencies.
Learn more about CIEPR

The IES predoctoral fellowship was a phenomenal opportunity during my doctoral studies. It provided close access to faculty mentors, interdisciplinary training to become a more thoughtful education policy researcher, and a community of scholars who will be lifelong colleagues and friends.” 

Max Gross (PhD Economics ’20), who recently joined Mathematica as a researcher in its Human Services Division



PhD students who received fellowships


Journal articles authored by CIEPR fellows in training


Fellows have graduated and moved on to careers in education policy research
Susan Dynarski accepts the NASFAA Golden Quill Award
Susan Dynarski accepts the NASFAA Golden Quill Award (2009)

Sue's recognition and awards