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Dr. Watson Scott Swail, President & CEO


DR. WATSON SCOTT SWAIL is the President & CEO of the Educational Policy Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank and research center. Dr. Swail is internationally recognized for his research on school reform, college access and success, as well as the private and public returns to education. His most recent book, Finding Superman: Debating the Future of Public Education in America, was published by Teachers College Press in 2012, and he is currently working on his latest endeavor, The Higher Education Arms Race, to be published in 2014. In 2003 he wrote Retaining Minority Students in Higher Education (Jossey Bass, 2003). Dr. Swail also writes a weekly blog called The Swail Letter on Higher Education.

Prior to establishing EPI, Dr. Swail served as the Founding Director of The Pell Institute for the Study of Educational Opportunity and as a senior policy analyst with SRI International and associate director for policy analysis with The College Board. While with the Board, Dr. Swail co-directed the Trends in College Pricing and Trends in Student Aid reports released in the U.S. each fall.

During his doctoral program at The George Washington University, Dr. Swail developed the geometric framework for student retention, which provides an empirically-based model for understanding how students and institutions move toward their mutual and individual goals. This model is used widely around the world for strategic planning in higher education, and is described in his Jossey-Bass publication, Retaining Minority Students in Higher Education (2003). In 2006, Dr. Swail chaired the first annual International Conference on Student Success, and conducts the Retention 101 workshops around the globe each year.

Dr. Swail currently serves on the research advisory board of the National Action Council on Minorities in Engineering (NACME), the AVID Postsecondary Advisory Board, the Old Dominion University Darden College of Education Advisory Board, the Council for State Governments’ National Advisory Council on Postsecondary Education Access, and the Board of Directors of St. Louis-based Student Resource Services. In 2009 he served on the Advisory Panel for the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), and in 2007 was named a Fellow of the Darden College of Education at Old Dominion University for his "dedicated service and his outstanding contributions in education

Dr. Swail has an Ed.D. in Educational Policy from the George Washington University in Washington, DC, an M.S. at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, and a B.Ed. from the University of Manitoba. He is a former middle school teacher, curriculum developer, teacher trainer, adjunct faculty member, and musician. Dr. Swail resides in Virginia Beach, VA.

Areas of Expertise:

Speaking History:
Dr. Swail has spoken at hundreds of events over the past decade. Many institutions have brought in Dr. Swail to talk about what it takes to help students succeed, especially those who are from low-income and first generation backgrounds. Dr. Swail conducts keynote addresses as well as workshops, including the Retention 101 workshop for institutional leaders and practitioners. He also chairs the EPI Forum on Education & the Economy.  Some of his past clients include:


Contact Information:


Dr. Swail's CV

Dr. Swail JPG



Council for State Governments (CSG)

HEQCO Conference 2012



Dr. Swail presiding at 2010 OECD Conference in Paris, FR (Third from left)