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Robert Kelchen

Assistant Professor of Higher Education, Seton Hall University
Areas of Expertise:

About Robert

Kelchen’s research interests include student financial aid, higher education finance, and accountability policy. His work as a methodologist for Washington Monthly magazine’s annual college rankings won an award for best data journalism from the Education Writers Association. His teaching interests include higher education finance, research methods, and governance and accountability policies and practices. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Truman State University and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Will Impending Reforms in Federal College Loan Programs Hurt Black Students and Families?

  • Sara Goldrick-Rab
  • Jason Houle

In the News

Quoted by in "Why Rich Students Get More Financial Aid Than Poor Ones," Nerd Wallet, April 2, 2020.
Quoted by Danielle Douglas-Gabriel in "This is the student loan problem that no one talks about: Graduate school debt," The Washington Post, January 13, 2020.
Research discussed by Doug Lederman, in "Study Finds U.S. Loans Don't Inflate Professional School Tuition," Inside Higher Ed, April 24, 2019.
Research discussed by Jillian Berman, in "Elizabeth Warren Wants to Wipe Away Student Debt — with a $1.25 Trillion Tax on the Rich," MarketWatch, April 23, 2019.
Research discussed by Jillian Berman, in "Alumni Donations Can Improve College Rankings — and Their Prestige," MarketWatch, January 13, 2019.
Research discussed by Vanessa Rancaño, in "Not Living in the Dorms? Good Luck Figuring out What College is Gonna Cost," KPCC, July 27, 2018.
Opinion: " Why the Democrats’ New ‘Debt-Free’ College Plan Won’t Really Make College Debt-Free," Robert Kelchen (with Dennis A. Kramer II), The Conversation,
Research discussed by Shalina Chatlani, in "Aim Higher and PROSPER on the Table: What's the Takeaway for Higher Ed Leaders?," Education Dive, July 26, 2018.
Research discussed by Susan Svrluga, in "Debt-Free College? House Democrats Introduce Higher Education Bill," The Washington Post, July 24, 2018.
Quoted by Jillian Berman in "Parents are Borrowing Even More to Pay for Their Kids’ College," Marketwatch, July 10, 2018.
Research discussed by David Jesse, in "The 20 College Majors With Lowest Average Student Debt," Detroit Free Press, July 5, 2018.
Research discussed by Dan Bauman, Goldie Blumenstyk, and Andy Thomason, in "Google Wants to Play a Bigger Role in Your College Search. Here’s What You Need to Know.," The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 12, 2018.
Quoted by Jillian Berman in "This Class of 2018 Graduate is 66 and One of Many Older Americans Pursuing a Degree," Market Watch, May 16, 2018.
Quoted by Beckie Supiano in "New Evidence Adds to Troubling Picture for Black Borrowers of Student Loans," The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 15, 2018.
Quoted by Matt Reed in "It Doesn’t Just Seem Harder…," Inside Higher Ed, May 14, 2018.
Quoted by David Jesse in "How Will Michigan State Pay for Nassar Victim Settlements?," WZZM13, April 30, 2018.
Quoted by Eric Kelderman in "Why College Mergers Need to be More than Just Cutting Administrators," The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 29, 2018.
Quoted by Shamane Mills in "Lawrence University to Pay Tuition for Students Who Can't," Wisconsin Public Radio, April 17, 2018.
Quoted by Andrew Kreighbaum in "A Troubled Accreditor's Long-Term Outlook," Inside Higher Ed, April 13, 2018.
Quoted by Chris Quintana in "No, Students Probably aren’t Blowing Their Student Loans on Bitcoin," The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 12, 2018.
Quoted by Eric Kelderman in "Era of Deregulation," The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 4, 2018.
Quoted by Jillian Berman in "Student Loan Borrowers with High Debts aren’t Making Progress Repaying Them," Market Watch, February 20, 2018.
Research discussed by Matt Reed, in "Accountability for What?," Inside Higher Ed, February 18, 2018.
Quoted by Anna Helhoski in "Why the Student Debt Crisis Hits Black Borrowers Harder," NerdWallet, February 7, 2018.
Quoted by Kate Hardiman in "Colleges Emphasize Tuition Freezes, but Not Cost Reduction," Washington Examiner, January 26, 2018.
Quoted by Preston Cooper in "Young College Graduates aren't Moving Like They Used To," Forbes, January 26, 2018.
Quoted by Jack Salmon in "Federal Aid an Overlooked Culprit of the College Debt Trap," The Hill, January 24, 2018.
Quoted by Eric Kelderman in "A Federal Shutdown Wouldn't Cause Chaos in Higher Ed — Unless It Drags On," The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 19, 2018.
Research discussed by Laurie Pine, in "Education Professor Recognized as National Scholar and Public Influencer," Seton Hall University News & Events, January 11, 2018.
Research discussed by Chris Quintana, in "I 'Crushed' My Student Loans in Record Time. (Free Rent Helped)," The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 9, 2018.
Quoted by Jillian Berman in "Students Who Do This during College Earn More Money after They Graduate," MarketWatch, January 3, 2018.
Quoted by Autumn A. Arnett in "Professor's 'Not Top Ten' List Reveals Some Hope for Turning Public Support for Higher Ed," Education Dive, January 2, 2018.
Quoted by Lindsay Ellis in "Texas Colleges, Universities Brace for Hard Changes," Houston Chronicle, December 10, 2017.
Quoted by Naomi Schaefer Riley in "The Real Meaning behind High Loan Default Rates among Black Students - Another Kind of College Mismatch," Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2017.
Quoted by Andrew Kreighbaum in "Post-Recession Borrowers Struggle to Repay Loans," Inside HigherEd, October 6, 2017.
Quoted by Grant Welker in "Area Colleges Offer More Aid as Tuition Rises," Worchester Business Journal, September 18, 2017.
Research discussed by Ashley Smith, in "A Punishment That Doesn't Work," Inside Higher Ed, July 20, 2017.
Opinion: "What Trump Might Mean for Higher-Ed Finance," Robert Kelchen, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 10, 2016.
Opinion: "Clinton’s New College Compact Plan Explained," Robert Kelchen, The Conversation, July 26, 2016.
Quoted by Anya Kamenetz in "Good News on Student Loans...for Some," National Public Radio, July 26, 2016.
Opinion: "Are Income Share Agreements a Good Way to Pay for College?," Robert Kelchen, The Conversation, May 5, 2016.
Research discussed by Cassandra Willyard, in "Student Aid," Seton Hall Magazine, April 29, 2016.
Interviewed in "When States Tie Money to Colleges’ Performance, Low-Income Students May Suffer," The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 6, 2016.
Opinion: "Fewer Poor Students are Being Enrolled in State Universities. Here’s Why.," Robert Kelchen (with Luke J. Stedrak), The Conversation, April 5, 2016.
Opinion: "The 2015 'Not Top Ten' List in Higher Education," Robert Kelchen, Washington Monthly, December 17, 2015.
Opinion: "How Well Do Default Rates Reflect Student Loan Repayment?," Robert Kelchen, Brookings Institution, September 30, 2015.
Guest on WNYC Public Radio, September 16, 2015.
Research discussed by Michael Stratford, in "A Path to Financial Aid 'Risk Sharing'," Inside Higher Ed, September 9, 2015.
Quoted by Nick Anderson in "The U.S. News and World Report College Rankings: A Public vs. Private Dilemma," The Washington Post, September 9, 2015.
Quoted by Jillian Berman in "One Way to Keep Colleges Honest without Hurting Low-performing Students," Market Watch, September 9, 2015.
Opinion: "To Reduce Debt, Give Students More Information to Make Wise College Choice Decisions," Robert Kelchen, The Conversation, August 14, 2015.
Quoted by Jillian Berman in "Why the Growth in Student Loan Debt Slowed Last Year," Market Watch, August 13, 2015.
Opinion: "Is Student Loan Debt Really a Crisis?," Robert Kelchen, The Conversation, July 8, 2015.
Quoted by Jillian Berman in "A Surprising Reason for Rising College Tuition," Market Watch, July 7, 2015.
Opinion: "How Should State Higher Education Funding Effort be Measured?," Robert Kelchen, Washington Monthly, May 12, 2015.
Research discussed by Kaitlin Mulhere, in "One Easy Fix That Could Make College Financial Aid Simpler and Better," Time, May 7, 2015.
Quoted by Riyah Basha and Sierra Lai in "The Hidden Cost of College," Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2015.
Opinion: "Where 3 Accountability Measures Meet, a Hazardous Intersection," Robert Kelchen, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 9, 2015.
Quoted by Scott Jaschik in "Starbucks Doubles College Effort," Inside Higher Ed, April 7, 2015.
Opinion: "What Your College Isn’t Telling You about Costs," Robert Kelchen (with Sara Goldrick-Rab), Time, April 2, 2015.
Quoted by Beckie Supiano in "What a Promise of Financial Aid Might Mean to a Middle Schooler," Chronicle of Higher Education, March 5, 2015.
Quoted by Davon Haynie in "Competency-Based Education: 4 Considerations for Online Students," U.S. News and World Report, March 3, 2015.
Research discussed by Anya Kamenetz, in "Competency-Based Degree Programs on the Rise," National Public Radio, January 26, 2015.
Quoted by Max Kutner in "Obama Left Questions Unanswered on Community College Plan," Newsweek, January 21, 2015.
Quoted by Melissa Korn in "Lawmakers Try to Simplify Student Aid," Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2015.
Opinion: "Should the Government Rate Our Colleges?," Robert Kelchen, Politico, December 18, 2014.
Opinion: "More Short Than Venti?," Robert Kelchen, Inside Higher Ed, June 18, 2014.
Opinion: "Change FAFSA Now," Robert Kelchen (with Sara Goldrick-Rab), Chronicle of Higher Education, August 15, 2013.
Opinion: "Saving Financial Aid for ‘Swirling’ Students," Robert Kelchen (with Sara Goldrick-Rab), Chronicle of Higher Education, November 14, 2012.
Opinion: "Making Income-Based Repayment of Student Loans Cost-Effective," Robert Kelchen (with Sara Goldrick-Rab), Chronicle of Higher Education, October 18, 2012.
Opinion: "America’s Best-Bang-for-the-Buck Colleges 2014," Robert Kelchen, Washington Monthly, September/October 2014.


"Federal College Ratings: A Primer and Potential Implications" Journal of College Admission (forthcoming).
Details the Obama Administration’s proposed Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS) and makes methodological and policy recommendations.
"Accelerating College Knowledge: A Fiscal Analysis of a Targeted Early Commitment Pell Grant Program" (with Sara Goldrick-Rab). The Journal of Higher Education (forthcoming).
Evaluates the fiscal consequences of making an early commitment of the full Pell Grant to eighth graders from needy families, using a simplified eligibility process.
"Can ‘Value Added’ Methods Improve the Measurement of College Performance? Empirical Analyses and Policy Implications," (with Douglas Harris), HCM Strategists, August 31, 2012.

Develops a “cost-adjusted graduation rate performance” measure to estimate a college’s value-added to students and policymakers using two different metrics. One of the measures developed has been incorporated into Washington Monthly’s annual college rankings.