Tulane professor Douglas Harris visited the White House on January 20 to discuss President Obama’s free community college initiative with his Domestic Policy Council. While still in the proposal stage, the idea has quickly become part of the national debate and current presidential campaign.
Harris is professor of economics, Schleider Foundation Chair in Public Education, and director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans. In addition to studying the K-12 school reform, he has been engaged in two large-scale experiments of the effects of college financial aid. One of these experiments, still ongoing in Milwaukee, is the only randomized trial of a program that has many of the same features as the President’s initiative. The U.S. Department of Education is funding the experiment through a $3 million grant to Harris through Tulane.
Harris co-authored a Brookings Institution report in 2009 that became the basis for an earlier Obama Administration proposal on community colleges. He also advised the Obama Administration on its College Scorecard. His prior studies had emphasized the need to focus more on the cost-effectiveness of programs and institutions and the Scorecard takes that same approach, providing information on both costs and outcomes for students.