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Erik C. Ness

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Graduate Coordinator and Professor of Higher Education

Erik C. Ness is professor of higher education and graduate coordinator in the McBeee Institute of Higher Education. Previously, he served as an assistant professor and coordinator of the Higher Education Management program at the University of Pittsburgh and as a policy analyst for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. He earned a B.A. in political science at North Carolina State University, an M.A. in comparative and international education at Loyola University Chicago, and a Ph.D. in education policy from Vanderbilt University.

Professor Ness conducts research on higher education politics and policy. His research agenda primarily follows two paths: (1) public policy effects, especially on students, institutions, and state systems, and (2) public policymaking process, specifically the political dynamics associated with state-level higher education policy adoption. Although he has recently begun to pursue multiple policy issues along these paths, much of his research considers the adoption and effects of state-level merit scholarship programs, such as Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program. Professor Ness’s current research projects examine research utilization—the extent to which policymakers rely on research evidence to craft policy—in the adoption and implementation of various state higher education policy initiatives, including an examination of the distinct role of intermediary organization on college completion policies that is funded by the William T. Grant Foundation. His research has also been supported by the Ford, Lumina, and Spencer foundations. 

Ness has published in the leading education policy and higher education journals including Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Educational Policy, The Journal of Higher Education, Research in Higher Education, and The Review of Higher Education.Professor Ness also serves on the editorial boards for Research in Higher Education and Education Law and Policy Review. Ness has consulted on projects related to higher education finance and student access in Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia. 

Curriculum Vitae:
Phone Number:
  • Ph.D., Education Policy, Vanderbilt University
  • M.A.,Comparative and International Education, Loyola University Chicago
  • B.A., Political Science, North Carolina State University
Research Interests:

Professor Ness conducts research on higher education politics and policy. His research agenda primarily follows two paths: (1) public policy effects, especially on students, institutions, and state systems, and (2) public policymaking process, specifically research utilization and the political dynamics associated with state-level higher education policy adoption.


William T. Grant Foundation (with J.C. Hearn), RFP for Understanding the Acquisition, Interpretation, and Use of Research Evidence in Policy and Practice, 2013-2016 
The Distinct Role of Intermediary Organizations in Fostering Research Utilization for State College Completion Policy ($350,000)

University of Georgia, Office of the Vice President for Research, Faculty Research Grants Program(FRG), 2010-2011 
Use of Research Evidence in State Higher Education Finance Policy ($10,302)

Spencer Foundation, 2009-2010
Research Utilization in the Adoption of State Merit Aid Programs ($39,626)

Falk Foundation (with R. Bangs, L. Davis, W. Elliot), 2008
Forecasted outcomes and costs of three basic options for the Pittsburgh Promise
University of Pittsburgh, Center on Race and Social Problems

The Pittsburgh Foundation (with R. Bangs, L. Davis, W. Elliot), 2008
Pittsburgh Promise eligibility rates by race, gender, and income University of Pittsburgh, Center on Race and Social Problems ($25,000)

Lumina Foundation for Education, 2005-2006
ASHE/Lumina Dissertation Fellowship ($14,000)

Gandara, D., Rippner, J.A. & Ness, E.C. (2017). Exploring the ‘How’ in Policy Diffusion: National Intermediary Organizations’ Roles in Facilitating the Spread of Performance-Based Funding Policies in the States. The Journal of Higher Education, 88(5), 701-725.

Ness, E.C. (2010). The Role of Information in the Policy Process: Implications for the Examination of Research Utilization in Higher Education Policy. In Smart, J. (ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research. Dordrecht: Springer.

Ness E.C., Tandberg D.A. & McLendon M.K. (2015). Interest Groups and State Policy for Higher Education: New Conceptual Understandings and Future Research Directions. In: Paulsen, M. (ed), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, vol 30. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Ness, E.C., Deupree, M.M. & Gandara, D. (2015). Campus Responses to Outcomes-Based Funding in Tennessee: Robust, Aligned, and Contested. Nashville: Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Ness, E.C. and Gandara, D. (2014). Ideological Think Tanks in the States: An Inventory of their Prevalence, Networks, and Higher Education Policy Activity. Educational Policy, 28(2), 258–280.

News Featuring Erik C. Ness
Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 12:39pm

Professor Erik Ness co-edited an in-depth look at the current state of research on education policymaking in Canada, the United States, and Western Europe.

Thursday, June 1, 2023 - 11:50am

by Jewel Caruso

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) recently released the book, Volatility in State Spending for Higher Education edited by Jennifer A. Delaney.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022 - 4:42pm

Professor Erik Ness, PhD candidate Sean Baser, and PhD student Matt Dean compiled a landmark survey of higher education authorization practices across the United States. The authors describe the purpose of the report, sponsored by the State Higher Education…

Monday, August 15, 2022 - 8:24am

by Jewel Caruso

Erik Ness, professor and graduate coordinator at MIHE, was featured in UGAToday highlighting his path that led to his work in higher education policy.

Friday, March 11, 2022 - 3:55pm
Wednesday, December 8, 2021 - 11:42am

Erik Ness hosted a great exchange yesterday in Meigs Hall. A delegation from International University of Grand-Bassam met with UGA administrators and faculty to talk strategic planning.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 - 4:33pm

Dr. Erik Ness received a First-Year Odyssey Teaching Award for his class “Research Evidence, Alternative Facts, and Fake News.” In his class, he guided students to seek and evaluate research evidence. He engaged students through practice with critical…

Thursday, February 4, 2021 - 9:52am

Not all higher education intermediary organizations experience the sustained growth and effectiveness of Complete College America (CCA).

Monday, December 21, 2020 - 10:11am

On Wednesday, December 16, Wil Del Pilar and Kayla Elliott, leading higher education policy experts at The Education Trust, shared recent research on race conscious policies and objectives-based funding (OBF) with the IHE community.

Friday, October 23, 2020 - 3:06pm

By the Numbers
By Erik Ness, Associate…

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