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Robert M. Costrell

Robert M. Costrell

Professor of Education Reform and Economics

Endowed Chair in Education Accountability


(EDRE)-Education Reform

Phone: 479-575-5332

Fax: 479-575-3196

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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 also leads the Department of Education Reform's Study Abroad Program in Israel.

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.

Teacher Pension Policy

Education Policy in Israel

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)

EDRE 6043, Finance and Education Policy

EDRE 6023:  Economics of Education

EDRE 6433:  Seminar in Education Accountability

Ph.D., Harvard University, Economics, 1972-78 
B.A., University of Michigan, Economics, High Distinction, Magna Cum Laude, 1968-72

What Pension Crisis?” with Josh McGee, presented at AEFP Annual Conference (virtual), March 20, 2020.

Employer Pension Costs, U.S. Public Schools, 2004 - present. Updated Quarterly:

All School Employees, Retirement Costs Per Pupil

All School Employees, All Benefit Costs Per Pupil

Public School Teachers vs. Private Sector Professionals, Percent of Earnings

Testimony to Arkansas Legislature, Joint Committee on Public Retirement, "Arkansas Teacher Retirement Plan:  Risks, Redistribution & Remedies," September 11, 2018.  (video, slides)

SELECTED WORKS (for full listing see attached CV above)

  • Education Advisor to Governor Mitt Romney (2005 – 2006)

  • Executive Office for Administration and Finance, Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

                Chief Economist, Commonwealth of Massachusetts (2003 – 2006)

                Director of Research and Development (1999 - 2002).

  • 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).