HERE Lab Research

At every stage of our research, we collaborate with community organizations, policy advocates, and policymakers.

The Racial Wealth Gap and Student Loan Debt

Our research dispelled myths that most borrowers are well off, showing that Black and low-wealth households carry disproportionate shares of student debt. This research was cited by Senator Warren and others in advocating for the Biden executive action to increase debt cancellation from $10,000 to $20,000 for former Pell recipients. Further research asks if Black and low-wealth debt burdens could be reduced through changes to financial aid formulas.

Wall Street Pressures in Higher Education and Beyond

We have shown that private equity-owned for-profit colleges and online degree subcontractors disproportionately enroll marginalized students and have poor graduation and loan repayment outcomes. This research has been extensively cited in Congressional hearings and Department of Education rulemaking that led to the cancellation of $21 billion in for-profit college student debt and consumer protections for for-profit and online degree programs. In partnership with the Roosevelt Institute and Berkeley Economyand Society Initiative, we plan to expand our research on private equity to other important sectors like healthcare.

Administrative Burdens in Financial Aid and Debt Relief Programs

We uncovered punitive administrative burdens in financial aid programs that led more than 300,000 California students to incur debts when they left school during COVID, likely because of health and economic hardships. Following this research, the California Coalition for Borrower Rights and Assemblymember Blanca Pacheco introduced Assembly Bill 1160 Protecting Students from Creditor Colleges Act to remove re-enrollment barriers for these students. Similarly, we provided the most robust evidence to date that administrative burdens disproportionately prevent low-income and Black borrowers from receiving debt relief under income-driven repayment programs.

Racialized Equity Labor in White Spaces

We coined the term “racialized equity labor” to describe the often-uncompensated efforts of people of color to address systemic racism and racial marginalization within postsecondary spaces characterized by white leadership, a white student body, and/or practices of historically white research universities. Our work documents the efforts of student activists, staff, and faculty to change their campuses and resist watered down university initiatives centering individual difference in favor of collective social action.

Upcoming Projects

Coming Soon: Du Bois, Data Visualization Innovations, and Underrepresented Student Belonging in STEM

In partnership with Fisk University and Princeton University, we have received $2 million in funding from the National Science Foundation to study if the centering of underrepresented innovators in STEM curriculum may increase a sense of belonging and educational persistence by underrepresented students. We will test this thesis by developing a 1-week lesson plan module for STEM research methods courses. The lesson plan will teach STEM students about statistical and data visualization innovations by Black social scientist W.E.B. Du Bois and his diverse collaborators.

Lab Research Publications

Precarity and the Predatory Inclusion of Black Women by For-Profit Colleges


Promising or Predatory? Online Education in For-Profit and Non-Profit Universities


Administrative Burden in Federal Student Loan Repayment, and Socially Stratified Access to Income-Driven Repayment Plans


The Private Side of Public Universities: Third-Party Providers and Platform Capitalism


Bankers in the Ivory Tower: The Troubling Rise of Financiers in US Higher Education


Creditor Colleges: Canceling Debts that Surged During COVID-19 for Low-Income Students


“Diversity Is a Corporate Plan”: Racialized Equity Labor among University Employees


White Paper for Senator Warren on Student Debt


Student Debt Cancellation Is Progressive: Correcting Empirical and Conceptual Errors


Broke: The Racial Consequences of Underfunding Public Universities


Asymmetry by Design? Identity Obfuscation, Reputational Pressure and Consumer Predation in U.S. For-Profit Higher Education


Tolerable Suboptimization: Racial Consequences of Defunding Public Universities


When Investor Incentives and Consumer Interests Diverge: Private Equity in Higher Education


Racialized Equity Labor, University Appropriation, and Student Resistance


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