Amy Li

Assistant Professor

Educational Policy Studies

Office: ZEB 364B

Phone: 305-348-4177


Specialty: Higher education

Dr. Amy Li’s research is on higher education finance and affordability, specifically promise/free-college programs, performance funding policies, state funding for higher education, financial aid and student loan debt, and policy adoption and implementation. She studies the impact of local and state policies on college entry and completion and is particularly interested in outcomes for historically underprivileged students. Dr. Li earned her Ph.D. from the University of Washington. Her work has been funded by the American Educational Research Association and AccessLex Institute. She was the 2017 recipient of honorable mention for the dissertation of the year award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Li’s previous professional experience has been in study abroad and in private sector finance. Her research has been covered by outlets such as The Conversation, the Campaign for Free College Tuition, the Hechinger Report, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

Research Areas

  • Higher education
  • Higher education finance
  • State policy
  • College affordability
  • Financial aid
  • Policy adoption
  • Policy evaluation


  • Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, University of Washington
  • M.Ed., Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Utah
  • B.S., Economics, Psychology, University of Utah

Selected Publications

Articles and Chapters

Li, A.Y., & Kelchen, R. (2021, online first). Policy diffusion of equity metrics in performance funding policies: A traditional and dyadic survival analysis. Educational Policy. 

Billings, M., Gándara, D., &Li, A.Y. (2021). Tuition-free promise programs: Implications and lessons learned. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(196), 81-95. 

Li, A.Y. (2021). Four decades of performance funding and counting. In L. W. Perna (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (Vol. 36, pp. 1–64). Springer. 

Li, A.Y., & Kelchen, R. (2021). Institutional and state-level factors related to paying back student loan debt among public, private, and for-profit colleges. Journal of Student Financial Aid, 50(2), 1-19. 

Gándara, D., & Li, A.Y. (2020). Promise for whom? “Free-college” programs and enrollments by race and gender classifications at public, 2-year colleges. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(4), 603-627. 

Li, A.Y. (2020). Performance funding policy impacts on STEM degree attainment. Educational Policy, 34(2), 312-349. 

Li, A.Y., & Gándara, D. (2020). The promise of “free” tuition and program design features: Impacts on first-time college enrollment. In L.W. Perna & E. J. Smith (Eds.), Improving research-based knowledge of college promise programs (pp. 219-239). American Educational Research Association. 

Li, A.Y. (2020). Dollars and sense: Student price sensitivity to law school tuition. Journal of Law, Business, and Ethics, 26(Winter), 47-70.

Li, A.Y., & Zumeta, W. (2019). Helping students or just taking their cuts? How prioritization of state student aid programs responds to downturns in higher education appropriations. Teachers College Record, 121(8), 1-38. 

Li, A.Y. (2019). The weight of the metric: Performance funding and the retention of historically underserved students. The Journal of Higher Education, 90(6), 965–991. 

Li, A.Y., & Ortagus, J.C. (2019). Raising the stakes: Impacts of the Complete College Tennessee Act on underserved student enrollment and sub-baccalaureate credentials. The Review of Higher Education, 43(1), 295-333. 

Li, A.Y., Gándara, D., & Assalone, A. (2018). Equity or disparity: Do performance funding policies disadvantage 2-year minority-serving institutions? Community College Review, 46(3), 288-315. 

Li, A.Y., & Kennedy, A.I. (2018). Performance funding policy effects on community college outcomes: Are short-term certificates on the rise? Community College Review, 46(1), 3-39. 

Li, A.Y. (2017). Covet thy neighbor or “reverse policy diffusion”? State adoption of performance funding 2.0. Research in Higher Education, 58(7), 746-771. 

Kelchen, R., & Li, A.Y. (2017). Institutional accountability: A comparison of the predictors of student loan repayment and default rates. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 671(1), 202-223. 

Li. A.Y. (2017). Dramatic declines in higher education appropriations: State conditions for budget punctuations. Research in Higher Education, 58(4), 395-429. 

Li. A.Y. (2017). The point of the point: Washington’s Student Achievement Initiative through the looking glass of a community college. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 41(3), 183-202. 

Policy Reports, Briefs and Other Works

Li, A.Y. (2020). Budgeting processes in higher education institutions. In M. E. David & M. J. Amey (Eds.), The SAGE encyclopedia of higher education (pp. 191-194). SAGE Publications. 

Li, A.Y., & Mishory, J. (2018). Financing institutions in the free college debate. The Century Foundation. 

Li, A.Y. (2018). Lessons learned: A case study of performance funding in higher education. Third Way. 

Li, A.Y., Kennedy, A.I., & Sebastian, M.L. (2018). Policy design matters: The impact of performance funding policies on community college credential completions (WISCAPE Policy Brief). University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE). 

Zumeta, W., & Li, A.Y. (2016). Assessing the underpinnings of performance funding 2.0: Will this dog hunt? TIAA Institute. 

Li, A.Y., & Zumeta, W. (2016). Performance funding on the ground: Campus responses and perspectives in two states. TIAA Institute. 

Li, A.Y., & Zumeta, W. (2015). State support for higher education. In J. Huisman, H. de Boer, D. Dill, & M. Souto-Otero (Eds.), The Palgrave international handbook of higher education policy and governance (pp. 463-482). Palgrave/Macmillan.