Who We Are

Thomas R. Wolanin, Ph.D.

Senior Associate



Thomas R. Wolanin, Ph.D., has served as a senior associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) since October 1996. Wolanin focuses on issues concerning postsecondary education financing, higher education governance, student access and equity, and international education. His most recent publications include Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Disabilities: A Primer for Policymaker, Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Issues and Options, and Rhetoric and Reality: Effects and Consequences of the Hope Scholarship.

He also is spearheading several of IHEP’s international initiatives. In 2005, Wolanin was invited to deliver a series of lectures in Poland on topics in American higher education, including the role of community colleges, quality assurance in distance education, and the role of academics in public policymaking.

Prior to joining IHEP, Wolanin served as deputy assistant secretary for legislation and congressional affairs at the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. In that position, he worked on the enactment of the President’s education program, including the Federal Direct Loan Program, GOALS 2000: Educate America Act, Improving America’s Schools Act and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act.

Wolanin’s career includes service as staff director of the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education in the U.S. House of Representatives. In that capacity, he managed the reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act in 1980, 1986, and 1992 under the leadership of Chairman William D. Ford. He also served in a variety of other legislative positions in the Congress and did staff work on the reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act in 1972 and 1976 and the Middle Income Student Assistance Act in 1978. He played a major staff role in the enactment of the Tech-Prep Education Act in 1990.

Wolanin’s academic career includes teaching positions at George Washington University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Oberlin College. He also served as executive assistant to the president at New York University. He has published widely, including works on education policy, international education, and American politics. He has received a number of awards, including election to Phi Beta Kappa and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship.

A native of Detroit, Wolanin received his bachelor’s degree and graduated magna cum laude from Oberlin College. He also received master’s and doctorate degrees from Harvard University.

An expert on various higher education issues, Wolanin is well versed in federal policy, with a focus on student financial aid programs and accountability systems; equity issues, such as low-income, disabilities, and foster youth; higher education in post-Soviet countries including Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Poland; higher education policies in South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique.