Professor of Education Reform and Economics, Endowed Chair in Education Accountability
College of Education and Health Professions
Robert M. Costrell is Professor of Education Reform and Economics and holds the Endowed Chair in Education Accountability at the University of Arkansas. His current research topics include teacher pension policy, fiscal impact of school choice, and methodologies for school funding estimation. He is also an expert in standards-based reform.
Professor Costrell has both an academic and policy-making background. His academic career has featured seminal publications on teacher pensions, the economic theory of educational standards, income distribution and testing, and school finance litigation. These have appeared in the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, the Journal of Public Economics, the Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, and Education Finance and Policy, as well as general interest publications, such as Brookings Papers on Education Policy and Education Next. He has also written commentaries for the Wall Street Journal and Education Week.
From 1999 to 2006, Dr. Costrell served in major policy roles for three governors of Massachusetts, including policy research director and chief economist, with a particular focus on education policy as that state's landmark reforms were implemented. As education advisor to Governor Mitt Romney, he helped develop the governor’s comprehensive proposal for a second round of education reform in 2005, and also led the reforms of the state's district and charter funding formulas. In 2003, Dr. Costrell’s extensive expert testimony in Massachusetts’ school finance case (Hancock v. Driscoll) proved critical to the successful defense of that state's education reform program. He represented the administration on the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (2001-03) and the Massachusetts School Building Authority (2005-06).
Dr. Costrell has served on the U.S. Department of Education’s Advisory Council on Education Statistics, appointed by Secretary Paige (2001-02) and the National Technical Advisory Council for NCLB (2008-09), appointed by Secretary Spellings. He was Fellow in Education Reform of the George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas (2011-13). He has provided expert witness testimony in school finance cases in Missouri and Washington, and also aided the New York Attorney General's Office.
Professor Costrell joined the faculty at the University of Arkansas in August 2006, and was the founding graduate director of the Ph.D. program in Education Policy. Professor Costrell was a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, from 1978 to 2000. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of Michigan in 1972 and his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1978.
School Finance and Education Policy (Ph.D. level)
Economics of Education (Ph.D. level)
Seminar in Education Accountability (Ph.D. level)
Research Seminar in Education Policy (Ph.D. level)
Econometrics (independent study, masters’ level)
Microeconomic Theory at M.B.A., Intermediate and Intro Levels.
Mathematical Methods of Economics at Ph.D. and Undergraduate Level.
Game Theory at Undergraduate Level.
Undergraduate Seminar in Economics of Education.
Theoretical Industrial Organization at Undergraduate Level.
Macroeconomic Theory at Ph.D., M.B.A., and Undergraduate Levels.
Corporate Finance at M.B.A. and Undergraduate Levels.
Money and Banking at Undergraduate Level.
International Trade at Undergraduate Level.
International Monetary Theory at Undergraduate Level.
Freedom and Education (inter-disciplinary course, team taught in Spring 2000, with Professor Jeffrey Leigh Sedgwick, of Political Science, under grant from the John Templeton Foundation’s Freedom Project)
Ph.D., Harvard University, Economics, 1972-78
B.A., University of Michigan, Economics, High Distinction, Magna Cum Laude, 1968-72
Employer Pension Costs, U.S. Public Schools, 2004 - present. Updated Quarterly:
SELECTED WORKS (for full listing see attached CV above)
“Accounting for the Rise in Unfunded Public Pension Liabilities: Faulty Counterfactuals and the Allure of Simple Gain/Loss Summations,” Journal of Pension Economics and Finance. Version of record online 3 October, 2016. (PDF here)
“The 80 Percent Pension Funding Target, High Assumed Returns, and Generational Inequity,” Contemporary Economic Policy. Version of record online, 7 October, 2016. (PDF here)
(with Josh McGee), 2016, “Cross-Subsidization of Teacher Pension Normal Cost: The Case of CalSTRS,” U of Arkansas Department of Education Reform Working Paper 2016-17. (2017 revised version here)
“Collective Bargaining and District Costs for Teacher Health Insurance: An Examination of the Data from the BLS and Wisconsin,” Journal of School Choice, 2015 (vol. 9, no. 4), pp. 578-603.
- “Why Did the Costs of Connecticut Teachers’ Pensions Rise So Much?” Paper presented at AEFP 40th Annual Conference. Washington, DC, 2015.
- “District Costs for Teacher Health Insurance: An Examination of the Data from the BLS and Wisconsin,” The Bush Institute, 2015.
- “Teacher Pension Enhancement in Missouri, 1975 to the present,” Show-Me Institute, 2014.
(with Michael Podgursky) “Teacher Pension Costs: High, Rising, and Out of Control.” 2013
(with Larry Maloney) “The Big Squeeze: Retirement Costs and School District Budgets.” 2013
- “GASB Won’t Let Me”: A False Objection to Pension Reform. May 2012
- “Interview with Dr. Robert Costrell on Public Employee Unions,” Common Good, December 14, 2011.
- “Collective Bargaining Weakens Cities,” Wall Street Journal, November 23, 2011.
- “Comments on Biggs and Richwine, “Are Public School Teachers Overpaid?,” American Enterprise Institute, November, 2011.
- (with Michael Podgursky). “Fixing Teacher Pensions,” Education Next, Fall, Vol. 11, No 4, 2011.
- (with Michael Podgursky). “Educator Pension Systems Ripe for Reform,” Education Week Commentary, April 20, 2011, pages 30-31.
- (with Michael Podgursky). “A Modest Proposal for Pension Reform,” Education Next, March 2011.
- (with Michael Podgursky). “Reforming K-12 Educator Pensions: A Labor Market Perspective.” TIAA-CREF Institute Policy Brief, February, 2011.
- “Oh, To Be a Teacher in Wisconsin.” The Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2011.
- “The Fiscal Impact of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: 2010-2011 Update and Policy Options.” School Choice Demonstration Project Milwaukee Evaluation Report #22, December 2010.
- guest editor (with Michael Podgursky). “Education Finance and Policy, Special Issue: Rethinking Teacher Retirement Benefit Systems.”MIT Press, Fall 2010 (Vol. 5, no. 4)
- (with Michael Podgursky). “Introduction to ‘Rethinking Teacher Retirement Systems’.” Education Finance and Policy, Fall 2010 (Vol. 5, no. 4), 393-401
- (with Josh McGee). “Teacher Pension Incentives, Retirement Behavior, and Potential for Reform in Arkansas.” Education Finance and Policy, Fall 2010 (Vol. 5, no. 4), 492-518.
- (with Michael Podgursky). “Distribution of Benefits in Teacher Retirement Systems and Their Implications for Mobility.” Education Finance and Policy, Fall 2010 (Vol. 5, no. 4), 519-557.
- (with Michael Podgursky). “Golden Handcuffs: Teachers who change jobs or move pay a high price.”Education Next, Winter 2010 (vol. 10, no. 1), pp. 60-66 (refereed research section); unabridged version.
- (withMichael Podgursky). “Conference: Educator Staffing, Quality, and Teacher Retirement Benefit Systems Conference Highlights,” Edvance Research, Southwest Regional Education Lab, 2009.
- (with Richard W. Johnson and Michael Podgursky). “Modernizing Teacher Retirement Benefit Systems,” in Creating a New Teaching Profession, edited by Dan Goldhaber and Jane Hannaway, Urban Institute Press, Washington, DC, Chapter 10. 2009
- (with Michael Podgursky). “Teacher Pension Reform: A Way Out of the Impasse.” Education Next, November 11, 2009.
- (with Michael Podgursky). “Making Mountains out of Molehills? Let the Reader Decide.” A reply to EPI, October 1, 2009.
- (with Janet S. Hansen and Michael J. Podgursky) “Teacher Retirement Systems: Research Findings.” National Center on Performance Incentives, Research Brief, July, 2009.
- “Bob Costrell jumps into the “Massachusetts Miracle debate,” Education Gadfly, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, May 22, 2009.
- (with Michael Podgursky), "Peaks, Cliffs and Valleys: The Peculiar Incentives in Teacher Retirement Systems and their Consequences for School Staffing," Education Finance and Policy, Spring 2009 (Vol. 4, No. 2), 175-211.
- “The Fiscal Impact of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: 2009 Update.” School Choice Demonstration Project Milwaukee Evaluation Report #7, March, 2009.
- (with Michael Podgursky), "Teacher Retirement Benefits," Education Next, Spring 2009 (vol. 9, no. 2), pp. 58-63 (refereed research section); unabridged version.
- updated chart, see above
- updated chart, see above
- "Who Gains, Who Loses? The fiscal impact of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," Education Next, Winter 2009 (vol. 9, no. 1), pp. 62-69 (refereed research section).
- (with Eric Hanushek and Susanna Loeb). “What Do Cost Functions Tell Us About the Cost of an Adequate Education?” Peabody Journal of Education, April, 2008.
- “The Fiscal Impact of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, 1993-2008,” School Choice Demonstration Project Milwaukee Evaluation Report #2, February, 2008.
- (with Michael Podgursky). “Peaks, Cliffs, and Valleys.” Education Next, Winter, 2008.
- (with Michael J. Podgursky). “Golden Peaks and Perilous Cliffs: Rethinking Ohio’s Teacher Pension System.” Thomas B. Fordham Institute, June, 2007.
- (with Michael J. Podgursky). “Efficiency and Equity in the Time Pattern of Teacher Pension Benefits: An Analysis of Four State Systems.” The Urban Institute: Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), Working Paper #6. 2007
- “The Winning Defense in Massachusetts.” In School Money Trials: The Legal Pursuit of Education Adequacy, eds. Martin R. West and Paul E. Peterson, pp. 278-304. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press, 2007.
- “Comment on ‘Test-Based Accountability: The Promise and the Perils.'” in Brookings Papers on Education Policy 2005, edited by Diane Ravitch, Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., pp. 27-37.
- “Equity v. Equity: Why Education Week and Education Trust Don’t Agree.”Education Next, Summer, 2005.
- “Wrong Answer on School Finances.” CommonWealth, Fall, 2004.
- “School Performance Isn’t Just about Spending.” Boston Globe, October 4, 2004.
(with Glenn C. Loury), "Distribution of Ability and Earnings in a Hierarchical Job Assignment Model," Journal of Political Economy, 118 (December 2004), 1322-1363.
(with James Peyser). “No Money Left Behind: Exploring the Costs of Accountability.”Education Next, Spring, 2004. unabridged version
- (with Julian R. Betts). “Incentives and Equity Under Standards-Based Reform.” In Brookings Papers on Education Policy 2001, edited by Diane Ravitch, Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., 2001, pp. 9-55, 66-73.
- “Discipline-Based Economics Standards: Opportunity and Obstacles.” In What’s at Stake in the K-12 Standards Wars, edited by Sandra Stotsky, Peter Lang Publishing, New York, 2000, Chapter 8.
- “A New Speech Code Proposed at the University of Massachusetts,” in The New Populist Reader, Karl G. Trautman (ed.), Praeger, Westport, CT, 1997, pp. 101-105.
"Can Centralized Educational Standards Raise Welfare?" Journal of Public Economics, 65 (September 1997), 271-293.
"A Simple Model of Educational Standards," American Economic Review, 84 (September 1994), 956-971.
"Accounting for the Causes and Consequences of Industrial Employment Shift," Industrial Relations, 33 (July 1994), 346-364..
"An Economic Analysis of College Admission Standards," Education Economics, 1 (No. 3, 1993), 227-241.
- “Immiserizing Growth with Semi-Public Goods Under Consistent Conjectures,” Journal of Public Economics, 45 (August 1991), 383-389.
- “Interest, Profits, and Suboptimality in a Demand-Constrained Macro Model.” The Economic Journal, 1986, Vol. 96, No. 384, pp. 919-941.
- “Equilibrium and Optimality in a Mean-Variance Model.” The RAND Journal of Economics, Vol. 17, 1986, No. 1, pp. 122-132.
- “Equilibrium Unemployment and Excess Capacity in Steady-State and Growth Cycles.” Economica, New Series, Vol. 51, 1984, No. 201, pp. 69-82.
- “Profitability and Aggregate Investment under Demand Uncertainty.” The Economic Journal, 1983, Vol. 93, No. 369, pp. 166-181.
- “Overhead Labor and the Cyclical Behavior of Productivity and Real Wages,” Journal of Post-Keynesian Economics 4 (Winter 1981-82), 277-290.
- “Stability of Zero Production Under Life-Cycle Savings.” The Review of Economic Studies, 1981, Vol. 48, No. 4, pp. 661-665.
University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Department of Economics: Professor (1992 – 2006)
Associate Professor (1985 - 1992); Assistant Professor (1978 - 1985); Lecturer (1978).
Boston University, Department of Economics: Visiting Scholar (1993 - 1994)
Brandeis University, Department of Economics: Adjunct Associate Professor (1986).
University of Toronto, Faculty of Management Studies:
Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics and Finance (1982 - 1984).
Laura and John Arnold Foundation, “Cross-Subsidization of Teacher Pension Normal Cost,” 2016-17, $93,764.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, " What Teacher Pension Plans Should Report to Their Members…and the Public," 2011-13. $132,907.
Education Advisory Committee, Mitt Romney Presidential campaign, 2012.
Fellow in Education Reform, George W. Bush Institute, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, 2011-2013.
"Significant Research Award," University of Arkansas, College of Education and Health Professions, 2008-09.
National Technical Advisory Council, U.S. Dept. of Education (Secretarial appointee), 2008-09.
"Analysis of Educator Retirement Benefit Systems in Chicago, Illinois, and Indiana," co-PI, with Michael Podgursky, $295,000. Joyce Foundation. May 1, 2009 - October 31, 2010.
"Teacher Retirement Benefit Systems and K-12 Education," co-PI, with Michael Podgursky, $250,000. Smith Richardson Foundation. March 1, 2008-September 30, 2010.
“Who’s Who in America, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012”
Senior Research Associate, School Choice Demonstration Project, University of Arkansas, 2006-.
Massachusetts School Building Authority (designee of the Secretary of Administration and Finance) (2005-06).
Commissioner (Gubernatorial designee to serve for Secretary of Administration and Finance), Massachusetts Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (2001-03).
Advisory Council on Education Stat's, U.S. Dept. of Education (Secretarial appointee) (2001-02).
Steering Committee, NAEP Economics Framework and Specifications (2001-02).
Teaching Faculty, Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, Spring 2002, 2006.
Board of Advisors, MassInsight Building Blocks Program (2001-06).
Templeton Foundation Freedom Project (with Jeffrey Sedgwick). For John Templeton Seminar & Lectures on Freedom and Education, University of Massachusetts at Amherst (2000).
Judge, Better Government Competition, Pioneer Institute (1999).
Christian Herter Teaching Award for Service to the University, UMass Republican Club (1999)
Board of Academic Advisors, Pioneer Institute, MA (1999-2006).
Board of Academic Advisors, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (1998-99)
Gubernatorial Appointee to Massachusetts Taxation Alternatives Commission. (1997-98)
Committee to Review National Standards, a project of the American Enterprise Institute, (1994).