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Nicholas Hillman

Professor and Director of SSTAR Lab, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Chapter Member: Wisconsin SSN

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About Nicholas

Hillman’s research explores how states and the federal government finance college education, and how their financing policies affect educational opportunity. His teaching includes courses on higher education finance, the politics of higher education, and research methods. To engage his work with public policymaking, he has developed research partnerships with the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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In the News

Quoted by Sarah Butrymowicz in "The Universities that Enroll More Poor Students Have Less Financial Aid to Give," The Hechinger Report, February 14, 2020.
Quoted by Randy Beach & Julie Bruno in "Why California’s New College Funding Formula is Bad for State’s Workforce," The San Diego Union-Tribune, May 16, 2018.
Interviewed in "‘Accountability and Opportunity in Higher Education’," Inside Higher Ed, February 27, 2018.
Quoted by Pat Schneider in "UW Faculty Classroom Hours Don’t Tell the Whole Story, Professor Says," Cap Times, February 27, 2017.
Quoted by Madeline Heim in "UW-Madison Expert Talks Climbing Student Debt at Technical Schools," The Daily Cardinal, October 26, 2016.
Quoted by Nico Savidge in "Experts Disagree on Value of 'Performance-Based' Funding Scott Walker Will Seek for UW," Wisconsin State Journal, August 27, 2016.
Quoted by Pat Schneider in "Hillary Clinton’s Free College Tuition Plan Unlikely to Fly in Wisconsin," Cap Times, August 1, 2016.
Quoted by Xiani Zhong in "University Seeks to Increase Merit Aid, Expert Says It’s an ‘Arms Race’ for Enrollment," UW Badger Herald, February 29, 2016.
Quoted by Tim Stuhldreher in "Most Students Don't Travel Far for College, but Does That Matter? Yes, It Does, Researchers Say," Lancaster Online, February 4, 2016.
Opinion: "Student Debt 101: Dearth of Data Fuels Common Misperceptions," Nicholas Hillman, The Conversation, May 21, 2015.
Quoted by Chris Parr in "Do You Need an Emotional Well-Being Check?," Times Higher Education, February 26, 2015.
Quoted by Allie Bidwell in "Performance Funding Might Not Help Students," U.S. News and World Report, January 14, 2015.
Research discussed by Paul Fain, in "Funding Formula Fracas," Inside Higher Ed, January 14, 2015.
Quoted by David Gura in "Student Loan Default Rates Don't Tell the Whole Story," NPR's Marketplace, September 23, 2014.
Guest on Wisconsin Public Radio, June 25, 2014.
Research discussed by Koran Addo and Alex Stuckey, in "Paying Colleges for Performance: Good Policy or Passing Fad?," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 26, 2014.
Guest on RadioWest, February 6, 2013.


"When to Begin? Socioeconomic and Racial/Ethnic Differences in Financial Planning, Preparing, and Saving for College" (with Melanie Gast and Casey George-Jackson). Teacher’s College Record (forthcoming).
Documents the extent of inequality that exists, and that exists very early in a child’s life, when families financially prepare for college.
"Cohort Default Rates: Predicting the Probability of Federal Sanctions" Educational Policy (2015).
Shows how strongly a college’s accreditation body and graduation rates are related to high default rates.
"Reforming Repayment: Using Income-Related Loans to Reduce Default" in Reinventing Financial Aid: Charting a New Course to College Affordability, edited by Andrew Kelly and Sara Goldrick-Rab (Harvard Education Press, 2014).
Examines the history and evolution of “income-based repayment” plans for federal student loans, outlining the shortcomings of this financing mechanism.
"College on Credit: A Multi-Level Analysis of Student Loan Default" Review of Higher Education 37, no. 2 (2014): 169-195.
Documents the important role institutions, particularly for-profit colleges, play in moderating student loan default.