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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 is 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
Year Description
2020 Elliott, W. (2020, October). Igniting a wealth revolution: Will social workers lead? NASW, MI.
2020 Elliott, W. (2020, January). Lessons Learned and Strategies Shared: How to Successfully Develop your Scholarly Agenda as an Underrepresented Junior Faculty Member. Society of Social Work and Research (SSWR) Annual Conference.
2020 Elliott, W. (2020, July). All children can reach their full potential: A child development account conference. Center for Social Development, Washington University in St. Louis, MO.
2018 Our Kids, Our Future
2018 Elliott, W. (2018, February). Moving from a Period of Normal Science to Revolution: Wealth Inequality and Education in America – Social Justice Matters Series, University of Michigan.
2018 Elliott, W. (2018, May). From Crisis to Revolution: Making Education the True Equalizer it was Meant to Be. Academic Innovation (Hatcher Library) – lunch topics on diversity, equity, and inclusion, University of Michigan.
2018 Elliott, W. (2018, February). CSA Research – Michigan Children’s Savings Account Consortium (CEDAM).
2018 Elliott, W. (2018, January). Michigan Research Community’s winter seminar, University of Michigan.
2018 Elliott, W. (2018, November). CSA Research - Barry Community Foundation, Barry County, MI.
2017 Elliott, W. (2017, October). The Robot Worker: Implications for Children’s Assets, Higher Education, and Social Mobility. Global Social Development Innovations (GSDI), University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC.
2017 Elliott, W. (2017, December). Making Education Work for the Poor: The Potential of Children’s Savings Accounts. Poverty Solutions, University of Michigan.
2017 Elliott, W. (2017, October). CSA Research and Maine Research Study. Harold Alfond Foundation Board Meeting, Portland, ME.
2017 Elliott, W. (2017, January). CSA Research: Past and Present. City of Miami Dade, FL.
2017 Elliott, W. and Lewis, M. (2017, July). Research on CSAs. CSA Webinar, Prosperity Now, Washington, DC.
2017 Elliott, W. (2017, August). Savings and Assets. AEDI Webinar, University of Michigan.
2017 Elliott, W. (2017, October). The Real College Debt Crisis. Radio show, Straight Talk (hosted by Frank Sweeny M.D.)
2017 Elliott, W. and Rist, C. (2017, October). College Promise Models and College Savings Accounts: How College Savings Can Bolster the Early Financial Aid Commitment. Press Club, Washington, DC.
2017 Elliott, W. (2017, November). Making Education Work for the Poor: The Potential of Children’s Savings Accounts. MHEC 2017 Annual Commission Meeting.
2017 Elliott, W. and Lewis, M. (2017, November). Imagining an Opportunity Pipeline. Annie E. Casey, Baltimore, MD.
2016 Elliott, W. (2016, March snowed out return October). Forging Solutions Out of Challenges: Social Work Leading Change through Financial Inclusion. Invited lecture by the School of Social Work at Colorado State University and the School’s Diversity and Human Rights Committee (DHRC) to be the special guest speaker for the inaugural year of the Dr. Brad Sheafor Lecture.
2016 Elliott, W. (2016, April). Race, Student Debt, and Equity. Key note. Educational, School and Counseling Psychology 8th Annual Conference at the University of Missouri.
2016 Elliott, W. (2016, June). Designing Sustainable Funding for College Promise Initiatives. College Promise Campaign, Washington, D.C.
2016 Elliott, W. (2016, August). Panel on Student Loans and Socioeconomic Mobility. Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
2016 Elliott, W. (2016, September). Post-Secondary Options. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas.
2016 Elliott, W. (2016, January). Panel on Social Work Grand Challenges: Reversing Extreme Economic Inequality. (SSWR). Annual National Conference.
2015 Elliott, W. (2015, Jan.). Participation in round table discussion titled Postsecondary Education as an Asset: An Investment for Financial Well-Being and Autonomy. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans (PACFCYA) Postsecondary Education Working Group. Washington, DC.
2015 Elliott, W. (2015, April). CSA Effects. 2015 AFN Grantmaker Conference Integrating Across Sectors. Assets Funders Network. Dallas, TX.
2015 Elliott, W. (2015, June). Student Debt. Education Commission of the States. Denver, Colorado.
2015 Elliott, W. (2015, October). Restoring the American Dream of a College Education, TED Talk, University of Kansas, KS.

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