Denisa Gandara

Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Texas Austin
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About Denisa

Gándara's research focuses on higher education policy and finance. Overarching themes in Gandara's writings include equity in policymaking processes and the effects of policies on different groups. Current research examines: the effects of free-college programs and policies; the development and effects of performance-based funding for higher education; varying notions of equity and adequacy in state funding of public higher education; methods for incorporating fairness in predictive analytics in higher education; the use of research evidence in higher education policymaking, and racial discourse in higher education policymaking.


Reducing Barriers to Free College Programs

  • Denisa Gandara
  • Diana Cervantes

In the News

"These Are the Students Free Community College Programs Help the Most," Denisa Gandara (with Amy Li), The Conversation, February 4, 2021.
Denisa Gandara quoted by Allison Pohle, "The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Making College Students Question the Price of Their Education" WSJ Noted, August 28, 2020.
Denisa Gandara quoted by Raga Justin, "Texas Universities Have Started Shedding Jobs and Are Bracing for a Serious Financial Hit" The Texas Tribune, August 7, 2020.
Denisa Gandara quoted by Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Lauren Lumpkin , "Discount, Freeze or Increase? How Universities Are Handling Tuition This Fall." The Washington Post, July 31, 2020.
"Should College Funding Be Tied to How Many Students Graduate?," Denisa Gandara, The Conversation, January 9, 2020.


"Can Free Community College Close Racial Disparities in Postsecondary Attainment? How Tulsa Achieves Affects Racially Minoritized Student Outcomes" (with Elisabeth Bell). American Educational Research Journal 58, no. 6 (2021).

Discusses the effects of Tulsa Achieves, a type of promise program that covers the balance of students’ tuition and fees after other aid is exhausted at a single community college, on degree completion and transfer for different racial/ethnic groups.

"Changing the Narrative on Student Borrowers of Color," (with D. Zerquera), Lumina Foundation, February 2021.

Examines the state of student loan debt for Latinx borrowers.

"Promise for Whom? “Free-College” Programs and Enrollments by Race and Gender Classifications at Public, 2-Year Colleges" (with Amy Li). Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 42, no. 4 (2020).

Reviews program effects on first-time, full-time college enrollments of students by race/ethnicity and gender classification using national data on 33 Promise programs affecting single, 2-year colleges.

"Completion at the Expense of Access? The Relationship Between Performance-Funding Policies and Access to Public 4-Year Universities" (with Amanda Rutherford). Educational Researcher 49, no. 5 (2020).

Examines whether 4-year, public universities become more selective or enroll fewer underrepresented students under performance-based funding state policies.

"How the Sausage is Made: An Examination of a State Funding Model Design Process" The Journal of Higher Education 91, no. 2 (2019): 192-221.

Analyzes the policy process surrounding the development of one state-level model for funding public higher education.

Outcomes Based Funding and Race in Higher Education (with Tiffany Jones, Sosanya Jones, Kayla C. Elliott, LaToya Russell Owens, and Amanda E. Assalone) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

Discusses how states have addressed equity in their Performance or Outcomes Based Funding policies, and the possibilities and limitations of these approaches. Considers the specific implications and outcomes of POBF for Minority Serving Institutions, which are most likely to serve the populations who experience significant inequities in higher education Provides policy makers and higher education scholars with recommendations and strategies for using POBF to advance racial equity in higher education