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William Elliott III

Professor of Social Work, Director, Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Social Science

William Elliott III

Professor William Elliott is a leading researcher in the fields of college savings accounts, college debt, and wealth inequality. Shaped by his personal roots in poverty in a small steel mill city in Pennsylvania, Professor Elliott pursues challenging individual beliefs and cultural values that surround funding for college, student debt, inequality, systemic patterns of poverty, and educational justice. Being refined in poverty allows him to approach questions in his research differently.

Some of the college savings account programs he is currently conducting research on are the Oakland Promise in California, Prosperity Kids in New Mexico, K2C in San Francisco, Promise Indiana, and the Harold Alfond College challenge in Maine. He’s published in journals such as Economics and Education Review, Journal of Poverty, Race and Social Problems, Educational Policy, and his most recent book is, “Making Education Work for the Poor: The Potential of Children’s Savings Accounts”. His research adds fuel to debates about how to imagine ways of financing college other than by student debt. He believes that there are real possibilities and his research bears this out. He asks if college education can truly be the great equalizer it is meant to be when wealth inequality remains the defining feature of American society. He calls for the next great wealth transfer in America. The seemingly naive premise behind Professor Elliott’s research is that there are better, more effective, and more just ways of financing college and delivering on the promise of the American dream. He suggests, people must just be shown once again that more is possible.

Research Interests/Focus

Economic, educational, and racial disparities; social policy; mental health; child development


Year Degree   School
2008 PhD Social Work Washington University, St. Louis, MO
2005 MSW Social Work Washington University, St. Louis, MO
1995 BA Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA


Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion

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