Research utilization in higher education rulemaking: A multi-case study of research prevalence, sources, and barriers

Rebecca Natow


For stakeholders who would like to see more research as a basis for educational policy, it is important to understand the prevalence of research use and the sources of the studies used by policymakers, as well as the factors that hinder research use in educational policymaking. Through an analysis of regulatory documents and interviews with 34 key informants, this multi-case study examined the prevalence and sources of research utilized in higher education rulemaking, which is the process for developing federal regulations that govern higher education. This study also examined barriers to using research in higher education rulemaking. Findings indicate that while research has been used in this process, factors other than research were discussed more frequently in final regulations. Barriers to research use in higher education rulemaking included time constraints, unavailability of data, politics, lack of government research capacity, and other disjunctions between the research and policy communities. Moreover, the contexts in which particular rules were created shaped the prevalence and sources of research used in the regulations’ development. The article concludes with implications for policy and theory.


research use; higher education; educational policy; rulemaking; federal policy; United States; case study

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Copyright (c) 2020 Rebecca Natow

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