Penn GSE’s Laura Perna Testifies to House Subcommittee on Higher Education Issues

Laura Perna, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, testified on April 30 to a United States House of Representatives panel that the U.S. is failing to adequately prepare its future workforce. 

The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training’s hearing focused on improving college access and completion for low-income and first-generation students.

“The U.S. cannot achieve the level of educational attainment that is required for workforce readiness or international competitiveness without closing the considerable gaps in the higher education attainment that persist across demographic groups,” Perna, who also serves as the founding executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy, or Penn AHEAD, testified. 

Along with three others, Perna discussed her research on college enrollment and completion, best practices for helping low-income and first-generation students gain access to and finish a degree, possible policy changes to strengthen existing federal programs and how institutional-level efforts can have a positive impact on educational outcomes. 

“Addressing the challenges facing disadvantaged students requires a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach and commitment from multiple players,” Perna said. “To maximize a return on investment in federal programs, we need to know more about what components and services work, for which groups of students and in which context.” 

Perna testified that paying attention only to the nation’s overall degree attainment obscures the substantially lower rates of college access and completion for students from low-income families, students who are the first in their families to attend college and students from racial and ethnic minority groups. 

More information about the hearing is at

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