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William Doyle - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

William Doyle

Associate Professor of Public Policy and Higher Education | Vanderbilt University


An expert on how geography affects higher education attainment and the state of the financial aid system in America.





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National Study Shows College is Not Affordable for Many


Social Media


Will Doyle is co-author of College Affordability Diagnosis, a state-by-state look at the cost of higher education. His research includes evaluating the impact of higher education policy at the state level and political behavior as it affects higher education. He examines how geography affects higher education attainment and the impact of a college degree on earnings and civic engagement, including philanthropy and voting. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, he was Senior Policy Analyst at the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Areas of Expertise (18)

borrowing trends

Undergraduate Education

Borrowing for College

College Affordability

Higher Education Access

Higher Education Finances

College Debt

University Rankings

Politics of Higher Education

Higher Education Policy

Student Access and Success in Higher Education

Drop Out Rates

College Affordability by State

Higher Education

Community Colleges

loan aversion

Financial Aid and Scholarships in Higher Education

Financial Aid

Accomplishments (3)

National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award for contributions to literature on financial aid (professional)


Scholarly Paper Award, Journal of Education Finance. Article: “State spending on higher education: Testing the balance wheel over time”, co-authored with Jennifer Delaney (professional)


AERA Outstanding Reviewer Award: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (professional)


Education (4)

Stanford University: Ph.D., Higher Education 2004

Stanford University: M.A., Political Science 2004

Villanova University: B.A., Philosophy 2000

Villanova University: B.A., Liberal Arts 1996

Affiliations (3)

  • Association for the Study of Higher Education
  • Association for Education Finance and Policy
  • NYU Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy Fellow

Selected Media Appearances (10)

Reshaping the Federal Role in Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed  online


This week’s episode dissects Congressional legislation that would eliminate tuition at community colleges and alter the relationship between the federal and state governments.

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Higher Education’s Nightmare Scenario

The Chronicle of Higher Education  online


Public colleges face two crises: the impact of Covid-19 on their operations and a downturn in state funding brought on by the current recession. And based on what state budget offices are saying, the funding problem for higher education is about to get a lot worse. Without action by the federal government, higher education in most states will be facing severe cuts, very likely larger than those incurred during the recession of 2008-9. There has already been a large contraction in our industry’s work force, and state systems are feeling the pain: In Pennsylvania, for instance, a plan to lay off approximately 350 faculty members has reportedly been expedited. All of that may merely be prelude to a looming, historic decline in the sector. There is time to act, but the window is closing. Academic leaders are planning now for unprecedented cuts.

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40 years later, landmark Emory gift remains call to public service

Atlanta Journal-Constitution  online


“It’s really dramatically unequal,” said Will Doyle, a Vanderbilt University higher education professor who’s done research on the topic. “The places that have the most money get the most money.”

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‘Tennessee Promise’ offers free community college or technical school education



NBC News’ Anne Thompson reports on a lottery-funded program in Tennessee that offers free community college or technical school tuition to students, regardless of income.

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Nashville Mayor David Briley proposes $1 million investment to boost college graduation rates

The Tennessean  print


But in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods, college attainment rates remain woefully low despite some increases in recent years, according to a data analysis by the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee in partnership with Vanderbilt University researcher Will Doyle.

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How Tennessee educators are learning to address race and its impacts on college achievement

Tennessean  online


“Minority students at every step face discrimination, and providing additional supports prior to and while they’re in higher education to alleviate the impacts of that discrimination is one of the ways to get to where we need to go," said Vanderbilt University professor Will Doyle. “That stuff isn’t free.”

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Why Many College Dropouts Are Returning to School in North Carolina

The Atlantic  online


“This isn’t a solution at the scale that the state would see big increases in the proportion of people attending higher education,” William Doyle, a professor of higher education at Vanderbilt University, told me. It’s a valiant start, he says, but equally important is making sure that college is affordable for students where they live. That’s because nearly 60 percent of incoming freshmen at four-year public colleges attend schools within 50 miles of their permanent residence. For this solution to have a broad effect on college-going culture, it will need to be available at more schools.

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Free Tuition? Tennessee Could Tutor New York

The New York Times  print


“In many ways, it’s a good model in terms of how much work you have to do in terms of implementation to get this to work,” said William Doyle, an associate professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. “The messaging, the branding, the community outreach.”

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Would axing a loan-forgiveness program narrow options for graduates?

The Christian Science Monitor  online


The debt burden is actually a symptom of a bigger problem of the increasing price of college, notes William Doyle, professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. And though it’s a laudable goal to think that some people will go into public sector jobs because of a program like this, he says, it’s reasonable to question whether that should even be one of the federal government’s goals.

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The new North-South divide: public higher education

The Hechinger Report  


This amounts to “spending on students that are going to college anyway,” said William Doyle, a professor of public policy and higher education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, who studies college affordability. “You’ve got a set of states that have spent a lot time and money on solving the wrong problems.”

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Selected Articles (3)

Patterns and volatility in state funding for higher education, 1951-2006

Teachers College Record

Jennifer A Delaney, William R Doyle

2018 Numerous studies have addressed the determinants of higher education appropriations. Extending prior studies that only consider the relationship between higher education and one other state budget category, Delaney and Doyle develop and test an empirical model of the relationship between higher education and all other budget categories.

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Does postsecondary education result in civic benefits?

The Journal of Higher Education

William R Doyle, Benjamin T Skinner

2017 Public support for higher education depends in part on the idea that additional postsecondary education results in civic benefits including voting, volunteering, and donating to non-profit causes. We expanded on the literature on civic benefits of higher education by utilizing a rich set of location-based instruments to identify the relationship between additional postsecondary education and civic behaviors.

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Impact of community college student debt levels on credit accumulation

The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

Dominique J Baker, William R Doyle

2017 Most community college students do not borrow to pay for their education. However, in recent years more students are borrowing and, when they borrow, accumulating large amounts of debt. To help clarify whether increased debt burdens are aiding community college students or harming them, we explore the impact of borrowing on academic credit hour accumulation.

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