UNC School of Law Receives $374,000 Grant from Lumina Foundation to Study Higher Education Equity

October 3, 2019
Kate Elengold
Kate Elengold

UNC School of Law has received a $374,100 grant from Lumina Foundation to study the relationship between debt, achievement and equity in higher education, with a specific focus on Latino/a students. This project is a partnership between the UNC School of Law, the UNC Center for Community Capital, and UnidosUS, a national nonpartisan organization that serves the Hispanic community through research, policy analysis and advocacy efforts.

Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. The foundation envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Lumina’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

“Although Latino and Latina students are entering higher education at historic rates, completion rates continue to lag behind peer completion rates,” says Kate Sablosky Elengold, assistant professor of law and director of Carolina Law’s Consumer Financial Transaction Clinic. “One unanswered question is whether and how attitudes about debt, including debt aversion, add to or reinforce that completion gap.”

Carolina Law and its partners will use the grant to undertake a two-phase exploratory research project. Phase one involves developing and disseminating a survey to better understand if and how debt aversion is a barrier to college completion for all students, with a particular focus on Latino and Latina students. Phase two digs deeper into the nuance of these complicated questions by interviewing a subset of the survey respondents. By layering quantitative and qualitative data, the results of this research will offer information and insight to policymakers, lawyers, and advocates seeking to narrow the equity gap in higher education.

“This project speaks directly to Lumina Foundation’s priority to scale affordable pathways through completion and its commitment to placing equity at the heart of its work,” says Katherine Wheatle, Ph.D., strategy officer for finance and federal policy at Lumina Foundation. “Lumina Foundation is excited to bring a legal perspective to conversations about racial equity in higher education affordability and completion. This project fills a gap in our understanding and will be a valuable tool for policymakers and advocates.”

The research project will take 22 months to complete with results expected to be released in summer 2020 and spring 2021.

“We are grateful to Lumina Foundation for this grant that will allow us to pursue research that is consistent with Carolina Law’s mission to be a great public law school, serving the legal profession and broader community,” says Elengold. 

The grant from Lumina Foundation supports For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina, the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the University’s history. The gift also reinforces UNC School of Law’s commitment to recruit, retain and reward world-renowned faculty who create meaningful learning experiences for our future lawyer-leaders.