Bell's research focuses on the effectiveness and politics of policies designed to improve college access, affordability, and accountability. Her current research agenda centers on the politics of tuition-free community college policies as well as performance-based funding in higher education.
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Utilizes the two latest ICMA Profile of Local Government Service Delivery Choices surveys to investigate whether the service provision and delivery arrangement information reported in the surveys accurately represents reality, and, if not, what factors contribute to generating incorrect or unreliable survey responses and improvements that could be made to the survey instrument. Suggests that the ICMA ASD survey data are highly erratic, with more than 70 percent of the cases investigated containing some inaccuracies. Shows that the majority of the errors appear to be caused by the lack of a clear definition of service provision or by the service titles being too vague or too broad, both of which likely lead to discretion in interpreting survey questions and thus inconsistent answers by individual respondents.
Estimates the impact of designating lottery earmark funding to higher education on state appropriations and state financial aid levels in a difference-in-differences design for the years 1990-2009. Indicates that lottery earmark policies are associated with a 5% increase in higher education appropriations, and a 135% increase in merit-based financial aid.
Discusses performance-based funding in higher education.
Assesses and compares the resulting diversity of student bodies at the flagship state universities through a comparative case study of two alternative affirmative action policies, the Texas Top Ten Percent Policy and the One Florida Plan. Evaluates the ethics of these two policies based on the principles presented by Virginia Held.
Discusses how state lawmakers looking to increase public university accountability have implemented policies which aim to monitor, reward, and sanction schools based on completion rates. Shows how these policies have mainly emerged as performance-based funding policies, which according to the aggregated evidence in this chapter, do not improve student completion rates and may lead universities to restrict access for disadvantaged students.