Nick Hillman

Professor and Director of SSTAR Lab

249 Education Building

Hillman, Nicholas

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Nicholas Hillman is a Professor in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Hillman’s research examines how finance, policy, and geography shape educational opportunities in the United States. He also directs the Student Success Through Applied Research Lab, a research-practice partnership with the university’s Division of Enrollment Management. Dr. Hillman co-edited the book, Civil Rights and Federal Higher Education and is a faculty affiliate with the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Research on Poverty and the La Follette School of Public Affairs.


  • PhD Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Indiana University-Bloomington, School of Education, 2010
  • MPA Public Affairs, Indiana University-Bloomington, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, 2005
  • BS Public Affairs, Indiana University-Bloomington, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, 2003

Select Media Contributions

  • Marketwatch, 2 million Americans have been repaying their federal student-loans for 20 years. (March, 2021). Media Link
  • NPR Here & Now, Graduates in Maine Have Some of the Highest Student Loan Debts: How Could Biden Change That?. (January, 2021). Media Link
  • Maine Public Radio, A third of Maine student loan borrowers could have their debt eliminated under plan floated by Biden. (January, 2021). Media Link
  • USA Today, Poor colleges need to get richer to put low-income students on a path to success. (December, 2020). Media Link
  • Hechinger Report, Is forgiving college debt the best way to solve the student loan crisis?. (December, 2020). Media Link
  • Marketplace, Would cancelling $10,000 in student debt really help that much?. (November, 2020). Media Link
  • Inside Higher Ed, Report: Rich college keep getting richer. (November, 2020). Media Link
  • Wisconsin State Journal, Left out: How the federal COVID-19 formula hurt some of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable college students. (October, 2020). Media Link
  • Wisconsin State Journal, (August, 2020). Media Link
  • Wisconsin State Journal, UW-Madison drops ACT/SAT test requirement for students applying this fall. (July, 2020). Media Link

Select Publications

  • Hillman, N., & Orfield, G. (2022). Civil Rights and Federal Higher Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
  • Furquim, F., Corral, D., & Hillman, N. (2019). A primer for interpreting and designing difference-in-differences studies in higher education research.. In L. Perna (Ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, 35 Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Hillman, N. (2019). Testimony before the House Committee on Education & Labor: Strengthening Accountability in Higher Education to Better Serve Students and Taxpayers. Washington, D.C.: U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Orfield, G., & Hillman, N. (2018). Accountability and Opportunity in Higher Education: The Civil Rights Dimension. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press Online Publication/Abstract.
  • Hillman, N., & Kindschy, A. (2018). The finance conundrum for higher education. In K. Webber (Ed.), Building Capacity in Institutional Research and Decision Support in Higher Education Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Hillman, N., Fryar, A., & Crespin-Trujillo, V. (2017). Evaluating the impact of performance funding in Ohio and Tennessee. American Educational Research Journal, 55(1), 144-170.
  • Hillman, N. (2017). Geospatial analysis in higher education research. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Hillman, N. (2016). Geography of college opportunity: the case of education deserts. American Educational Research Journal, 53(4), 987-1021.
  • Hillman, N. (2015). Borrowing and repaying federal student loans. Journal of Student Financial Aid, 45(3), 35-48.
  • Hillman, N., Tandberg, D., & Fryar, A. (2015). Evaluating the impacts of 'new' performance funding in higher education. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 37(4), 501-519.

Select Presentations

  • Hillman, N., Elliot, K., Wood, L., & Bussey, J. (2020, May). Supporting Student Success in Higher Education in the Time of COVID-19. presented at the The Education Trust, Washington, DC.
  • Hillman, N. (2020, May). Student Debt Overview. presented at the Governor’s Task Force on Student Debt, Madison, WI.
  • Hillman, N., Bruecker, E., & Weisenburger, K. (2020, March). Research Practice Partnerships in Financial Aid. presented at the Wisconsin Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, Madison, WI.
  • Hillman, N., & Kwasny, M. (2020, February). SSTAR Lab: An Innovation Story from an Unlikely Place. presented at the Interaction Design Association Education Summit, Milan, Italy.
  • Hillman, N., & Jaquette, O. (2020, January). Institutional and Public Priorities: Who We Recruit, Who We Support, How We Can Do Better. presented at the University of Southern California Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice, Los Angeles, CA.
  • Hillman, N., Coca, V., Marquez Kiyama, J., Rios-Aguilar, C., & Tseng, V. (2019, November). Spanning Boundaries and Broadening Impact: Research-practice Partnerships as a Method for Research Engagement in Higher Education. presented at the Association for the Study of Higher Education annual meeting, Portland, OR.
  • Hillman, N. (2019, August). Measuring and Addressing Inequality in Higher Education Systems. presented at the European Association for Institutional Research, Leiden, the Netherlands.
  • Hillman, N. (2019, April). Strengthening Accountability in Higher Education to Better Serve Students and Taxpayers. presented at the U.S. House of Representatives Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee, Washington, DC.
  • Hillman, N., Bruecker, E., & Fischer, J. (2019, March). Locating “High FAFSA Potential” High Schools to Promote College Access and Affordability. presented at the ACT Wisconsin, Madison, WI.
  • Hillman, N. (2019, February). Measuring Financial Inequality in Higher Education. presented at the Institute for Research on Poverty, Madison, WI.

Select Awards and Honors

  • Excellence in Public Policy Award, Association for the Study of Higher Education, 2018
  • Robert P. Huff Award for Research Excellence, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, 2017
  • Teaching Award, Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2017