Education policy

From cradle through career, education programs exist to help children and youth learn, grow, and succeed in school and in life. But how do decision makers know which interventions work? How can their investments address institutional and systemic inequalities in education?

Ford School faculty and staff use rigorous analytical methods to understand which policies, programs, and practices improve educational outcomes—and which do not. They use this data to partner with and empower community stakeholders, government agencies, and policymakers across the country to make informed decisions and create better results for students. And our faculty trains the next generation of education policy professionals to help create a brighter future. 

Much of this work takes place within two education-focused research centers housed at the Ford School—the Education Policy Initiative and the Youth Policy Lab.

Policy engagement

HAIL scholarship

With just over 1,000 big, maize and blue envelopes, Susan Dynarksi and Kathy Michelmore helped solve a problem that University of Michigan administrators struggled to fix for years — the gap between low- and high-income student enrollment. Over 40% of low-income students apply to non-selective universities, compared to 10% of their high-income counterparts. Now in its fifth year. the HAIL Scholarship has doubled the number of applications, admissions, and enrollment rates for low-income students at the University of Michigan, proving the envelopes to be successful.
Read more
Research insights

Education partnerships evaluate career transitions

The Youth Policy Lab (YPL) partnered with NAF, an educational non-profit that uses career exploration to prepare high school students for postsecondary education and/or the workforce. YPL analyzed the characteristics and outcomes of their participants in Detroit, finding that NAF students outperform their peers in high school outcomes and college enrollment.
Read more about "Education partnerships evaluate career transitions"
Policy engagement

Simplified FAFSA form becomes a reality

The Free Application for Student Aid form is intimidating, consisting of 108 questions to answer. But, thanks to Susan Dynarski's research and advocacy, starting in 2023, the FAFSA will only require applicants to fill out 33 questions, simplifying the application process in an attempt to encourage more low-income students to apply for college and financial aid.
Read more about "Simplified FAFSA form becomes a reality"
Policy engagement

Free college tuition program for frontline workers

Drawing on personal experience of the impact of a college degree, Youth Policy Lab Data and Policy Fellow Avazeh Attari became instrumental in developing the Futures for Frontliners program. The program is modeled after the G.I. Bill and provides essential workers with free college tuition, thanking them for serving their community during the pandemic.
Read more about "Free college tuition program for frontline workers"
Next generation

Training in causal inference

In its first five years, the Causal Inference in Education Policy Research (CIEPR) program supported 22 interdisciplinary students, training them in a range of applied research methods. The CIEPR program prepares its doctoral students to evaluate the causal impacts of education programs and policies by teaching them how to design, implement, and analyze policy experiments as well as empirical data. Alumni of CIEPR have gone on to build and engage in powerful research partnerships with education systems across the country, including Los Angeles Unified School District and the Boston Public Schools.
Learn more
Research insights

Career and technical education (CTE) offers pathways for students with disabilities

Research by Brian Jacob and Jeremy Guardiola found students with disabilities who participated in a CTE program were almost 50% more likely to graduate high school and found jobs more easily than those who didn't.
Read more about "Career and technical education (CTE) offers pathways for students with disabilities"
Research insights

Early childhood providers strained during COVID

A study of Boston's Universal Pre-K shows early childhood providers face teacher turnover, decreases in enrollment, and strained resources that stall quality improvements.
Read more about "Early childhood providers strained during COVID"
A powerful resource

Michigan Education Data Center

Helping to answer important questions such as if waiting a year to start kindergarten leads to better outcomes, the Michigan Education Data Center (MEDC) houses 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
State of Michigan (Executive Office of Governor Whitmer)

Brandy Johnson (MPP ‘09) makes college accessible in Michigan

“I’m so appreciative of the Ford School’s emphasis on the summer internship because it was so invaluable. The internship was the domino that set off the rest of my career. There’s no way I would have started MCAN or be where I am today without that experience.”
Read more about "Brandy Johnson (MPP ‘09) makes college accessible in Michigan"
Chief Executive Officer, Trust for Social Achievement

Sarah Perrine (MPP/MIRS ‘06) removes barriers to early education access in Bulgaria

"My experience at Ford taught me to never accept any argument at face value and to always dig a bit deeper. The solutions are not easy — but they are there if we think critically and persevere."
Read more about "Sarah Perrine (MPP/MIRS ‘06) removes barriers to early education access in Bulgaria"