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Gregory Wolniak

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Professor of Higher Education

Gregory Wolniak conducts interdisciplinary research on the socioeconomic effects of college. He is particularly interested in understanding how individuals' socioeconomic trajectories are affected by their experiences in college, educational choices, and institutional environments, and the degree to which learning and developmental gains made during college translate to post-college outcomes.

He has published extensively on the career and economic influences of the college experience, and helped launch the Affordability and Transparency Initiative aimed at improving the ways institutions communicate their tuition and cost information to the public. His work has been featured in recent articles appearing in Psychology Today, The AtlanticThe Chronicle of Higher EducationThe ConversationInside Higher Education and MarketWatch. In addition, Wolniak is co-author on the 3rd volume of How College Affects Students: 21st Century Evidence that Higher Education Works (2016, Wiley/Jossey-Bass).

Wolniak has been principal investigator on numerous externally funded projects, most recently receiving grants from the Gates Foundation, Spencer Foundation, the Institute for Justice and Opportunity (formerly the Prisoner Reentry Institute), and the Horatio Alger Association. In addition, he is MIHE’s research and outreach liaison with the University System of Georgia’s, Division of Research and Policy Analysis and an affiliated researcher with the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium. He is on the editorial boards of Journal of Higher Education (where he has also served as Associate Editor) and Teachers College Record, with recent publications appearing in AERA OpenJournal of Diversity in Higher Education, Journal of Student Financial Aid, Research in Higher Education, Review of Higher Education, and Review of Research in Education

Prior to arriving at the Institute, Wolniak was founding director of the Center for Research on Higher Education Outcomes and Clinical Associate Professor of Higher Education at New York University. Previously, he served as senior research scientist with NORC at the University of Chicago and received his doctorate in 2004 from the University of Iowa.

Curriculum Vitae:
Personal Website:
  • Ph.D., Social Foundations of Education, University of Iowa
  • M.A., Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • B.S., Economics, Iowa State University
Research Interests:

Dr. Wolniak conducts interdisciplinary research on the socioeconomic effects of college. He is particularly interested in understanding how individuals' socioeconomic trajectories are affected by their experiences in college, educational choices, and institutional environments, and the degree to which learning and developmental gains made during college translate to post-college outcomes. 


Principal Investigator (2017-2023), Tracking the Educational & Career Pathways of the 2017 Scholars Cohort During and Beyond Four Years of College. Horatio Alger Association. $499,477

Co-PI with Charles Knapp and Jeffrey Humphreys (2019-2021), College Completion and the Georgia Workforce. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. $393,487

Co-PI with City University of New York (2018-2021), Evaluating the Prisoner Reentry Institute’s College Initiative. The John Jay College Institute for Justice and Opportunity (formally the Prisoner Reentry Institute). $350,000

Lead Principal Investigator (2017-2018), Strengthening the Graduate Education Pipeline through Diversity: Examining Factors that Influence Aspirations, Enrollment, and Completion. Funder: AccessLex Institute / Association for Institutional Research. $49,862

Lead Principal Investigator (2016-2017), Improving Transparency in College Costs: Examining College Attendance in the Era of Differential Tuition Practices. Spencer Foundation $49,766

Principal Investigator (2015-2016), The State of Our Nation’s Youth 2016 & Portraits of Contrast. Horatio Alger Association. $108,242

Principal Investigator (2015-2016), Inspirational Teaching and Learning and the Development of Preservice Teachers: A multi-institutional study of non-cognitive factors. Sanford Education Center, National University. $160,000

Principal Investigator (2012-2013), Examining the STEM Pipeline among Underrepresented and Disadvantaged College Students. Center for Excellence in Survey Research, NORC at the University of Chicago. $18,501

Principal Investigator (2011-2012), The State of Our Nation’s Youth 2012. Horatio Alger Association. $117,040

Principal Investigator (2010-2012), Understanding Educational Resilience and Factors Associated with College and Career Success among Scholarship Recipients. Horatio Alger Association Scholarship Program. $330,000

Co-PI with Mark E. Engberg (2010-2011), Access to Postsecondary Education: The interrelationship among high school contexts and socioeconomic status. Association for Institutional Research, NSF, & NPEC Research Grant (Award number: RG10-144). $39,000

Principal Investigator (2009-2010), High School Contexts and Postsecondary Outcomes: A Multilevel Analysis of ELS:2002. Center for Excellence in Survey Research, NORC at the University. $18,707

Refereed Articles (partial list, 2016-present)

Wolniak, G.C., Chen-Bendle, E.C., & Tackett, J.L. (2023). Exploring Gender Differences in Leadership Aspirations: A Four-Year Longitudinal Study of College Students from Adverse Backgrounds. AERA Open, 9(1), 1-18. 

Wolniak, G.C., Gregory, M.M., & Muskens, M. (2023). The Relative Influence of Subjective and Objective Socioeconomic Status on the Noncognitive Development of First-Year College Students. Review of Higher Education, 46(3), 311-42.

Wolniak, G.C., & Burman, S.C. (2022). COVID-19 Disruptions: Early Evidence on the Effects of Campus Closure on Academic Self-Efficacy and Motivation. Journal of College Student Development, 63(4), 455-460.

Whitaker, A., & Wolniak, G.C. (2022). Social Exclusion in the Arts: The Dynamics of Social and Economic Mobility Across Three Decades of Undergraduate Arts Alumni in the United StatesReview of Research in Education, 46(1), 198-228. 

Mitic, R.R., & Wolniak, G.C. (2022). Examining the Associations Between Financial Conditions and Study Abroad in Diverse, Low-income College StudentsJournal of Student Financial Aid, 51(3), Article 2. 

Bowman, N.A., Wolniak, G.C., Seifert, T.A., Blaich, C.F., & Wise, K. (2022). The Long-Term Role of Undergraduate Experiences: Predicting Intellectual and Civic OutcomesResearch in Higher Education. 

Wolniak, G.C., & Muskens, M. (2021). Undermatching and Affective Development during the First Year of College: A longitudinal study of college students in the NetherlandsResearch in Higher Education, 62(6), 855-884.

Wolniak, G.C., Mitic, R. & Engberg, M.E. (2020). Diverse Pathways to Graduate Education AttainmentJournal of Diversity in Higher Education, 13(4), 368-383.  

Davis, L.D., Wolniak, G.C., George, C.E., & Nelson, G. (2019). Demystifying Tuition? Building a framework for informational quality and accessibility. AERA Open, 5(3), 1-27. 

Wolniak, G.C., & Engberg, M.E. (2019). Do "High-Impact" College Experiences Affect Early Career Outcomes? Review of Higher Education, 42(3), 825-858.

Allen, D., & Wolniak, G.C. (2019). Exploring the Effects of Tuition Increases on Racial/Ethnic Diversity at Public Colleges and Universities. Research in Higher Education, 60(1), 18-43.

Seifert, T.A., Bowman, N.A., Wolniak, G.C., Rockenbach, A.N., & Mayhew, M.J. (2017). Ten Challenges and Recommendations for Advancing Research on the Effects of College on Students. AERA Open, 3(2), 1-12.

Wolniak, G.C. (2016). Examining STEM Bachelor's Degree Completion for Students with Differing Propensities at College Entry. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice, 18(3), 287-309.

Wolniak, G.C., Wells, R.C., Engberg, M.E., & Manly, C.A. (2016). College Enhancement Strategies and Socioeconomic Inequality. Research in Higher Education, 57(3), 310-334.

Books & Chapters (partial list, 2016-present)

Williams, T.M., & Wolniak, G.C. (2020). Unpacking the "Female Advantage" in the Career and Economic Impacts of College. In N. Niemi & M. Weaver-Hightower (Eds.), The Wiley Handbook of Gender Equity in Higher Education (pp. 7-28). Wiley-Blackwell.

Muskens, M.,Wolniak, G.C., & Borghans, L. (2020). The Long-Term Consequences of College Undermatching on Career and Personal Well-Being After College. In B. Broucker, V. Borden, T. Kallenerg, & C. Milsom (Eds.), Responsibility of Higher Education Systems: What? Why? How? (pp. 51-73). Rotterdam, Netherlands: Brill.

Wolniak, G.C., George, C.E., & Nelson, G.R. (2019). The Emerging Differential Tuition Era Among U.S. Public Universities. In P. Teixeira, et al. (Eds.), Under Pressure? Higher Education Institutions Coping with Multiple Challenges (pp. 191-214). Rotterdam, Netherlands: Brill. 

Wolniak G., Ballerini V. (2019). Peer Effects, Higher Education. In P. Teixeira & J. Shin (Eds.), Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions. Dodrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Mayhew, M. J., Rockenbach, A.B., Bowman, N.A., Seifert, T.A., & Wolniak, G.C. (2016). How College Affects Students: 21st Century Evidence that Higher Education WorksSan Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Courses Regularly Taught:
News Featuring Gregory Wolniak
Thursday, January 20, 2022 - 3:23pm

Book review by Emily Chen-Bendle & Greg Wolniak appears in Review of Higher Education (Winter 2021).

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 10:50am

Greg Wolniak and research collaborator Amy Whitaker presented at the 2021 SNAAP Research Symposium on October 20, 2021.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - 8:16am
Wednesday, February 10, 2021 - 4:30pm

Greg Wolniak and Marjolein Muskens find that attending an undermatched institution “appears to have a positive influence, or no influence, but never a negative influence” on attributes, such as motivation, satisfaction, and self-efficacy.

Thursday, February 4, 2021 - 3:32pm

The Horatio Alger Association awarded Greg Wolniak a nearly $100,000 extension to capture changes in students over four years of higher education.

The project focuses on the 2017 entering freshman class of Horatio Alger Scholars through the end of their…

Wednesday, December 23, 2020 - 7:57am

Associate professor Greg Wolniak co-authored a chapter for Responsibility of Higher Education Systems: What, How, Why? (Brill, 2020).

Monday, December 14, 2020 - 9:49am

Sarah Burman, Matthew Gregory and Greg Wolniak assessed Paul Tough's The Years that Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us (2019) in a review published in Teacher's College Record.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020 - 8:56am

Greg Wolniak is co-author of a chapter assessing current research on the growth of female student success in higher education.

Monday, November 30, 2020 - 11:37am

An eighteen-month study of the economic impact of advanced degrees led by Charles Knapp, Greg Wolniak, and Jeff Humphreys estimates the actual value to the economic health of the state of higher education degrees among the population. 

Monday, October 26, 2020 - 7:57am

Chronicle of Higher Education

Power of the Professoriate

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