Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

14. Elizabeth Bell. (Forthcoming). Does Free Community College Improve Student Outcomes? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

  • In this article, I utilize a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effects of Tulsa Achieves—a prevalent and understudied type of tuition-free college program. In contrast to concerns regarding tuition-free community college suppressing bachelor’s degree attainment, I find that Tulsa Achieves increased the likelihood of transferring to 4-year colleges by 13 to 14 percentage points and increased bachelor’s degree attainment by approximately 2 percentage points. The estimates for shorter outcomes are underpowered to detect policy relevant effects, but suggest Tulsa Achieves increased college GPA and had a null impact on credit accumulation, retention, and graduation from Tulsa Community College.

13. Elizabeth Bell and Denisa Gandara. (Forthcoming). “Can Free Community College Close Racial Disparities in
Postsecondary Attainment? How Tulsa Achieves Impacts Racially Minoritized Student Outcomes.” American Educational Research Journal.

  • Promise Programs, or place-based tuition-free college policies, have become increasingly popular among policymakers looking to expand postsecondary attainment. In this article, we examine Tulsa Achieves, a widespread, albeit understudied type of promise program that covers the balance of students’ tuition and fees after other aid is exhausted at a single community college. Utilizing a difference-in-differences and event-study design, we investigate the role Tulsa Achieves eligibility plays in
    promoting or hindering vertical transfer and bachelor’s degree attainment across racial / ethnic groups. We find that Tulsa Achieves eligibility is associated with increases in bachelor’s degree attainment within five years among Native American and Hispanic students and an increased likelihood of transfer within four years for Hispanic students.


12. Deven Carlson and Elizabeth Bell. (Forthcoming). “Socioeconomic Status, Race, and Public Support for School Integration Policy.”—with Deven Carlson. AERA Open.

  • Polling data routinely indicates broad support for the concept of diverse schools, but integration initiatives—both racial and socioeconomic—regularly encounter significant opposition. We leverage a nationally-representative survey experiment to provide novel evidence on public support for integration initiatives. Specifically, we present respondents with a hypothetical referendum where we provide information on two policy options for assigning students to schools: 1) A residence-based assignment option and 2) An option designed to achieve stated racial/ethnic or socioeconomic diversity targets, with respondents randomly assigned to the racial/ethnic or socioeconomic diversity option. After calculating public support and average willingness-to-pay, our results demonstrate a clear plurality of the public preferring residence-based assignment to the racial diversity initiative, but a near-even split in support for residence-based assignment and the socioeconomic integration initiative. Moreover, we find that the decline in support for race-based integration, relative to the socioeconomic diversity initiative, is entirely attributable to white and Republican respondents.


11. Elizabeth Bell. (Forthcoming). “Estimating the Spillover Effects of the Tennessee Promise: Exploring Changes in Tuition, Fees, and Enrollment.” The Journal of Student Financial Aid.

  • Tuition-free college policies have gained momentum since the implementation of the Tennessee Promise, which provides financial aid to students pursuing two-year post-secondary degrees in Tennessee. While previous research has addressed the effects of similar programs on student outcomes, scholars have yet to thoroughly investigate potential spillover effects of Promise policies on colleges that are ineligible for Promise funds. In this paper, I leverage a difference-in-differences design to explore changes in enrollment and tuition and fees at institutions eligible and ineligible for Tennessee Promise funds. First, I find that in-state enrollment increased significantly at public Promise eligible institutions (mainly public two-year and technical colleges) and in-state enrollment decreased at public four-year colleges that are ineligible to receive Promise funds. Moreover, out-of-state enrollment increased at Promise ineligible public four-year colleges after the Promise was implemented. Second, I find that Black student enrollment declined by 1-2 percentage points at private colleges ineligible for Promise funds. Finally, public colleges eligible for Promise funds raised tuition after the Tennessee Promise was implemented. Together, these findings indicate that in the aftermath of the Tennessee Promise, there were significant changes in enrollment and tuition levels across institutions eligible and ineligible for Promise funds.


10. Elizabeth Bell, Ani Ter-Mkrtchyan, Wesley Wehde, and Kylie Smith. Forthcoming. “Just or Unjust? Street-level Bureaucrats Policy Preferences and Justifications of Beliefs on Administrative Burden.” Public Administration Review.

  • Existing research finds that increases in administrative burden reduce client access, political efficacy, and equity. However, extant literature has yet to investigate how administrative burden policies are interpreted by street-level bureaucrats (SLBs), whose values and beliefs structure uses of discretion and client experiences of programs. In this article, we utilize quantitative and qualitative data to examine SLBs’ policy preferences regarding administrative burden in Oklahoma’s Promise—a means-tested college access program. Our findings demonstrate that SLBs in our sample interpret administrative burden policies through the lens of political ideology. Conservative SLBs express significantly more support for administrative burden policies, arguing that these policies prevent fraud and demonstrate client deservingness. In contrast, predominantly liberal SLBs justify their opposition to administrative burden by arguing that the requirements undermine social equity. Together, our findings reveal that SLBs’ political ideology shapes interpretations of administrative burden and perceptions of client deservingness in Oklahoma’s Promise.


9. Elizabeth Bell, Alisa Hicklin Fryar, and Tyler Johnson. Forthcoming. “The Role of Mission and Expertise in Shaping Public Support for Nonprofit Advocacy.” Nonprofit Policy Forum.

  • Research on nonprofit advocacy has grown in recent years, and many nonprofit organizations have expanded and refined their efforts to influence public policies in ways they believe will benefit society. Despite the growing body ofliterature on nonprofit advocacy, there is substantial room for development onquestions related to public perceptions of nonprofit advocacy activities. Utilizingan experimental design, we examinethe ways in which the involvement of a nonprofit organization in the policy process can shift public opinion regarding a specific policy proposal.Wealso explore how these perceptions vary when we introduce political conflict that questionsthe effectiveness of the proposed policy. We find that in the absence of political controversy, the involvement of nonprofits in the policy processcansignificantly increasepositiveperceptions,relative to the control condition in which there is no mention on nonprofit involvement. However, we also find that the ways in which nonprofit involvement could boost support for a policy proposal may not hold when there is conflict over the policy in question.


8. Deven Carlson, Byron Carlson, and Elizabeth Bell. Forthcoming. Interjurisdictional Competition and Policy Preferences of the Public: Modeling Public Preferences on the Oklahoma Penny Sales Tax Referendum. The Journal of Politics.

  • Prior research provides evidence that jurisdictions compete with one another in several of these domains. This evidence, however, comes almost exclusively from the decisions of political elites and provides little insight into potential public responsiveness to interjurisdictional competition. In this paper, we leverage a statewide referendum on education funding levels in Oklahoma to examine whether the degree of competition from across state borders systematically affected public support for increased educational funding. Results indicate that voting precincts facing stiff educational competition from school districts in other states supported the referendum at higher rates than precincts facing little competitive pressure.

7. Elizabeth Bell. (2020). The Politics of Designing Tuition-Free College: How Does Policy Design Influence Policy Support? The Journal of Higher Education.

  • In this article, I leverage a nationally representative survey experiment and policy design theory to explore the power of social constructions of target populations in shaping a cornerstone of politically feasible tuition-free college—public opinion. In line with theoretical expectations, the analysis reveals that including a minimum high school GPA requirement increased support for tuition-free college, while targeting benefits to low-income families reduced perceptions of fairness, relative to a universal policy design. The findings also reveal that the effect of policy design on public perceptions of tuition-free college is moderated by region and age.


6. Elizabeth Bell. Forthcoming. Deserving to Whom? The Heterogeneous Effects of Social Constructions on Public Support for Affirmative Action. Policy Studies Journal.

  • Using a nation-wide survey experiment, I investigate variation in public support for affirmative action policies with randomly assigned target populations. The findings indicate that the public formulates policy preferences on the basis of perceived deservingness of target groups similar to political elites. In addition, the findings uncover significant variation across the ideological spectrum and across different racial/ethnic group identities in the conceptualization of deservingness.

5. Deven Carlson, Elizabeth Bell, Matthew Lenard, Joshua Cowen, and Andrew McEachin. Forthcoming. The Effects of Socioeconomic Integration on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Wake County Public School System. American Educational Research Journal.

  • In this paper, we leverage the school assignment system that the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) employed throughout the 2000s to provide evidence on this issue. Although our results show that WCPSS’ socioeconomic-based assignment policy had negligible effects on average levels of segregation across the district, it substantially reduced racial segregation for students who would have attended majority-minority schools under a residence-based assignment policy. The policy also exposed these students to peers with different racial/ethnic backgrounds, higher mean achievement levels, and more advantaged neighborhood contexts. We explore how residential context and details of the policy interacted to produce this pattern of effects and close the paper by discussing the implications of our results for research and policy.

4. Elizabeth Bell, Wesley Wehde, and Madeleine Stucky. (2020). Supplement or Supplant? Estimating the Effects of Lottery Earmarks on State Higher Education Funding. Education Finance and Policy.

  • We estimate 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. Main findings indicate that lottery earmark policies are associated with a 5% increase in higher education appropriations, and a 135% increase in merit-based financial aid. However, lottery earmarks are also associated with a decrease in need-based financial aid of approximately 12%. These findings have serious distributional implications that should be considered when state lawmakers adopt lottery earmark policies for higher education.

3. Tracey Bark, and Elizabeth Bell. (2019). Issue Prioritization by University Presidents: The Influence of Organizational Structure. Administration and Society, 51 (6): 915-950.

  • This article brings theories of issue attention and prioritization to bureaucracy, focusing on how institutional factors affect bureaucracies’ prioritization of issues. Using quantitative survey data, we assess the impact of institutional factors on the prioritization of competing issues such as equity, accountability, and affordability in higher education. We find that these institutional factors significantly affect the prioritization choices of universities, beyond the influence of individual leadership traits.

2. Jennifer Delaney, Elizabeth Bell, and Maria Soler. (2019). Public Perceptions of Income Share Agreements: Evidence from a Public Opinion Survey. Journal of Education Finance.

  • This study utilizes nationally representative public opinion data to explore public opinions on ISAs—income contingent financing mechanisms that provide individuals with access to capital to pay for college after individuals commit to pay a specified percentage of their future income. This survey, complete with detailed demographic information including previous experience with financing education, political views, and beliefs about higher education policies, provides a glimpse into the previously unexplored opinions of ISAs across the U.S.


1. Scott Lamothe, Meeyoung Lamothe, and Elizabeth Bell. (2018). Understanding Local Service Delivery Arrangements: Are the ICMA ASD Data Reliable? Public Administration Review, 78 (4): 613-625.

  • We utilize 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. Interviews with practitioners are used to better understand both the accuracy of the survey responses and improvements that could be made to the survey instrument. Results suggest that the ICMA ASD survey data are highly erratic, with more than 70 percent of the cases (N = 70) investigated containing some inaccuracies. A qualitative analysis 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 over time.


Book Chapters & Other Publications

1. Elizabeth Bell, Alisa Hicklin Fryar, and Nicholas Hillman. (2018). “When Intuition Misfires: A Meta-analysis of Performance-Based Funding” in Research Handbook on Quality, Performance and Accountability in Higher Education, edited by Ellen Hazelkorn, Alexander McCormick, and Hamish Coates. Edward Elgar Publishing.

  • Invited for public facing article by Scholar Strategy Network & Forum of the American Journal of Education. Cited in media article in National Review.

2. Meeyoung Lamothe and Elizabeth Bell. (2017). “Nonprofit Lobbying” in Global of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance, edited by Ali Farazmand. Springer International Publishing.

3. Elizabeth Bell. (2016). “Alternative Affirmative Action: Evaluating Diversity at Flagship Universities under Race Blind Admissions.”


Works in Progress

Manuscripts Under Review

  1. “Matching Potential with Promise: The Effects of Oklahoma’s Early Commitment Financial Aid on Academic Undermatch”—with Kylie Smith. Submitted for review.

  2. “Perspectives from the Front-line: Street-level Bureaucrats, Administrative Burden and Access to the Promise of Higher Education”—with Kylie Smith. (Revise and Resubmit at Administration & Society).

  3. “Who Deserves Administrative Burden? How Social Constructions of Target Populations Shape Public Support for Adding Burden to Free College.” Submitted for review.

  4. “Organizational Problem Solving and the Use of Research in the U.S. Department of Education.”—with Sam Workman, Deven Carlson, and Tracey Bark. Submitted for review.

Working Papers

  1. "Resistance or capitulation? Anger, shame, and citizens’ behaviors during interactions with the state"—with Julian Christensen and Kristina Jessen Hansen.

  2. "Administrative Burden and Equity in Promise Programs: How Student Experiences of Eligibility Requirements Shape Disparities in Program Access"—with Kylie Smith.

  3. "Self-Efficacy to the Rescue? How Psychological Resilience Shapes Experiences of Administrative Burden"—with Janne Kaluzca.

  4. “The Distributional Feedback Effects of Administrative Burden: How Racially Minoritized Clients React to Losing Program Access”—with Julian Christensen.

  5. “Racial Discrimination as a Means of Cream-Skimming? A Conjoint Experiment and Audit Study of U.S. Charter School Principals.”—with Sebastian Jilke.

  6. “Organizational Determinants of Racial Discrimination by Charter School Principals: The Role of Management Organizations, State Policy, and Organizational Missions.”—with Sebastian Jilke.

  7. “Integrating Identity in Policy Design Theory: How Identity Salience and Complexity Shapes Who is Perceived as Deserving of Affirmative Action.”

  8. “Who Gets the Last Ventilator? A Conjoint Experiment on Disability and Deservingness during COVID-19”—with Monica Schneider, Rebecca Kreitzer, Dara Strolovich, and Justin Holmes.

  9. “The Broader Impacts of Public-School Closure: How Shuttering Schools Impacts Neighborhood Vitality in Marginalized Communities”—with Deven Carlson.

  10. “The Effects of School Counselors on Access to Oklahoma’s Promise: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity”—with Katharine Meyer.

  11. “Can nudging improve FAFSA Renewal Rates? Evidence from an at-scale RCT”—with Mike DiDomenico and Dennis Kramer.