City and Regional Planning

Laura Perna

Professor of Education, School of Education

Dr. Perna joined the faculty as associate professor in 2005 and was promoted to full professor in 2010. Dr. Perna is also the founding Executive Director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (Penn AHEAD) at Penn GSE.Prior to her appointment at Penn GSE, she served on the faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park; as a research scientist and director of data analysis, as well as acting director, at the Frederick Patterson Research Institute of the United Negro College Fund; and as director of institutional research at the University of Dallas.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Gaps in educational attainment by race/ethnicity and family income persist despite substantial annual investments by federal and state governments, colleges and universities, school districts, philanthropic organizations, and other entities in policies and programs that are designed to close these gaps. The central focus of Dr. Perna’s scholarship is to understand the forces that limit educational attainment, despite these considerable efforts, and the ways to promote educational attainment, particularly for students from traditionally underrepresented groups. Current scholarship draws on economic and sociological frameworks and uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to understand how public policies and institutional practices influence students’ opportunity to enroll and succeed in college, taking into account the contexts in which students are embedded.