Laura Perna
University of Pennsylvania
GSE Centennial Presidential Professor of Education and Vice Provost for Faculty
Laura Perna

Year Elected


Membership status

Laura W. Perna is GSE Centennial Presidential Professor of Education and Vice Provost for Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a faculty fellow of the Institute for Urban Research, faculty affiliate of the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative, and member of the advisory board for the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, as well as past chair of Penn’s faculty senate. Dr. Perna has served as President of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) and Vice President of the American Educational Research Association’s Division J (Postsecondary Education) and is a member of the AERA Grants Governing Board. She has served on the editorial boards of American Education Research Journal, Educational Researcher, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Journal of Higher Education, Review of Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, and Research in Higher Education, and as associate editor of AERA Open. She is now editor of Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research and a member of the Board of Directors for Postsecondary Network Policy Institute (PNPI). Dr. Perna’s research examines the ways that social structures, institutional practices, and public policies promote and limit college access and success, particularly for groups that continue to be underrepresented in higher education. Her scholarship is published in books, journal articles, policy reports, and other outlets. Recent publications include Improving Research-Based Knowledge of College Promise Programs (with Edward Smith, 2019, American Educational Research Association), Taking It to the Streets: The Role of Scholarship in Advocacy and Advocacy in Scholarship (2018, Johns Hopkins University Press), The Attainment Agenda: State Policy Leadership for Higher Education (with Joni Finney, 2014, Johns Hopkins University Press) and The State of College Access and Completion: Improving College Success for Students from Underrepresented Groups (with Anthony Jones, 2013, Routledge). She has provided invited testimony to the U.S. Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, Committee on Education and the Workforce, United States House of Representatives. Her research has been funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, Lumina Foundation, and other organizations. Among other honors, Dr. Perna has received the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching from the University of Pennsylvania, Early Career Achievement Award from ASHE, Excellence in Public Policy in Higher Education Award from ASHE’s Council on Public Policy and Higher Education, the Dr. Constance Clayton Education Award from the Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable, and the Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. She is also a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association. She holds bachelor’s degrees in economics and psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a master’s in public policy (M.P.P.) and Ph.D. in education from the University of Michigan.

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