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Catharine Bond Hill

President Emerita

Catharine Bond Hill became the tenth president of Vassar College in July 2006.  Hill is a noted economist whose work focuses on higher education affordability and access, as well as on economic development and reform in Africa.

Under Hill’s leadership, Vassar has reinstated need-blind admissions and replaced loans with grants in financial aid for low-income families. From these efforts and others in admissions and financial aid the college now enrolls a much more socioeconomically diverse student body. This earned Vassar the first-ever Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence in 2015, which at $1 million is the largest award of its kind. Moreover, the first two editions of  the New York Times “College Access Index” (2014, 2015), which measures the most economically diverse top colleges, recognized Vassar as the leading private institution. 

Since 2013 Vassar has admitted 31 veterans as freshmen through a joint program with the Posse Foundation.  The Veterans Posse Program is the first to recruit veterans for attendance at highly selective colleges, with Wesleyan University and Dartmouth College now participating as well. 

Other initiatives during Hill’s presidency include greater community outreach, and the development of tools and resources for institutional research and long-term planning. Hill has also taught an advanced-level seminar at Vassar on the economics of higher education.

Hill continues research she began with her late co-author Gordon Winston on the access by low-income students to highly selective colleges, and the net prices paid by these colleges' students relative to their family incomes.  This includes “American Higher Education and Income Inequality” (Education Finance and Policy, 2015), "Low-income students and highly selective private colleges: Geography, searching, and recruiting" (Economics of Education Review, 2010) and “Affordability: Family incomes and net prices at highly selective private colleges and universities” (Journal of Human Resources, 2005). She has also authored opinion pieces for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles TimesBusiness Week, Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg News Service, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed, and been interviewed or quoted by the New York Times, NPR, Wall Street JournalMarketplace, and U.S. News among other outlets.

Hill has been selected for a number of scholarly awards, grants, and fellowships from organizations including the American Council of Learned Societies, Brookings Institution, National Science Foundation, and Social Science Research Council. The work of Hill and her colleagues on the economics and affordability of higher education was primarily supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Hill is a trustee of Ithaka Harbors, Inc. and serves as an elected alumni fellow to the Yale Corporation. She previously served on the board of the College Board, the NCAA Division III Presidents Council, and on the board of the Yale-NUS College, Singapore’s first liberal arts college.

Prior to her Vassar presidency, Hill served seven years as the provost of Williams College, where she had chief academic and financial officer responsibilities. Hill originally joined the economics faculty at Williams in 1985. She and her family lived from 1994 – 1997 in the Republic of Zambia, where she was the fiscal/trade advisor and then head of the Harvard Institute for International Development’s Project on Macroeconomic Reform, working in the Ministry of Finance and with the Bank of Zambia. She has written widely from her experiences in Africa, including co-editing the books Promoting and Sustaining Economic Reform in Zambia (2004) and the widely reviewed Public Expenditure in Africa (1996). In her earlier career she worked for the World Bank, and the Fiscal Analysis Division of the U. S. Congressional Budget Office.

Hill graduated summa cum laude from Williams College, and also earned B.A. and M.A. degrees at Brasenose College, Oxford University, with first class honors in politics, philosophy and economics. She completed her Ph.D. in economics at Yale University.