General Education and Student Success
Annaliese Paulson

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Michigan

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
Although general education requirements comprise approximately one-third of a four-year student’s degree requirements in the United States, there is little empirical evidence as to their efficacy. While general education requirements are intended to ensure all students develop general skills and experience a liberal arts education, there has been limited credible research on the topic. Drawing on an original dataset of more than 900,000 syllabi from thirty four-year postsecondary institutions in Texas linked with administrative student transcript and wage records, I provide one of the first quantitative analyses of the role of postsecondary general education requirements in the United States. Across three studies, I examine where core general skills like writing and the ability to work in groups are taught in postsecondary curriculum, estimate the labor market returns to general skills learned in coursework, and provide the first causal estimates of the effect of general education requirements on student success in college and the labor market.
About Annaliese Paulson
Annaliese Paulson is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan and an Institute for Education Sciences Causal Inference in Education Policy Research Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Drawing on both causal inference methods and tools natural language processing including large language models and generative AI, her research examines the role the content and structure of postsecondary curriculum plays in student success and the labor market. She is particularly interested in the value of liberal arts education and general education programs in the 21st century. As a member of the Mellon Foundation funded College and Beyond II research project at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, she helped curate large-scale text and administrative records to democratize access to the data necessary for studying the impact and outcomes of higher education. Her research developing tools to work with large-scale text data in postsecondary education has been funded by the Michigan Institute for Data Science and the Academic Innovation Fund at the University of Michigan. Prior to her doctoral studies, Annaliese worked as a residence hall director at Lawrence University and as a research assistant at the Institute for Social Research. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Math and Philosophy from Lawrence University and a Master of Arts in Higher Education from the University of Michigan.

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