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Gregory Wolniak

Gregory Wolniak

  • Principal Researcher, Mathematica, Inc.
  • Instructor, Higher Education Administration and Policy

Research Interests

Socioeconomic effects of college; How college affects student learning and development; College access; Financial aid and transparency; College-to-career transitions


Gregory Wolniak is a Principal Researcher at Mathematica, Inc., in the Human Services / Postsecondary Education area. Prior to joining Mathematica, Wolniak held leadership roles at the University of Georgia (as Professor of Higher Education Administration at the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education), New York University (as Center Director and Clinical Associate Professor of Higher Education), and NORC at the University of Chicago (as Senior Research Scientist). He is an expert on topics related to student learning and development, the career and economic outcomes of college, and institutional polices related to tuition, financial aid, and financial transparency. Wolniak co-authored the highly influential book, "How College Affects Students: 21st Century Evidence that Higher Education Works" (2016, Wiley/Jossey-Bass), in addition to more than 45 peer-reviewed scientific publications, garnering him media mentions and featured articles in outlets such as Psychology Today, The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Conversation, Inside Higher Education and MarketWatch.
Wolniak conducts innovative, interdisciplinary research on the socioeconomic effects of college, advancing understanding of how individuals' socioeconomic trajectories are affected by their experiences in college, educational choices, and institutional environments, and the extent to which learning and developmental gains made during college translate to post-college outcomes. In support of his scholarship, Wolniak has received generous funding from numerous sources, including the Horatio Alger Association, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Institute for Justice and Opportunity (formerly the Prisoner Reentry Institute).
In addition, Wolniak is an affiliated researcher with the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium and is on the editorial boards of Teachers College Record and Journal of Higher Education (where he has also served as Associate Editor). His most recent publications appear in AERA Open, Journal of College Student Development, Journal of Student Financial Aid, Research in Higher Education, Review of Higher Education, and Review of Research in Education.


  • PhD, Social Foundations of Education, University of Iowa
  • MA, Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • BS, Economics, Iowa State University

Selected Publications

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.

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 Outcomes. Research in Higher Education, 64, 379–401.

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 States. Review of Research in Education, 46(1), 198-228.

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

Wolniak, G.C., Mitic, R.R., & Engberg, M.E. (2020). Diverse pathways to graduate education attainment. Journal 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.