Benjamin L. Castleman

Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy; Director, Nudge4 Solutions Lab

  • Ed.D, Harvard University, November 2013
  • B.A. Brown University, 2000

Ben Castleman is an Assistant Professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, and the Founder and Director of the Nudge4 Solutions Lab at UVA. He is a senior advisor to Former First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative and is the Faculty Director of the University of Virginia-US Army Partnership on Veterans' Education. Ben's research develops scalable solutions in education and public policy by leveraging behavioral insights, data science, interactive technologies, and deep partnerships with public and private agencies and organizations. Ben leads Mrs. Obama’s Up Next campaign, a national text messaging campaign to improve college, financial aid, and loan repayment outcomes for young Americans. Ben has presented about his research at several White House convenings and in testimony before Congress.

Ben's research has appeared in top public policy and economics journals, including The Journal of Labor Economics, The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, and The Journal of Human Resources. Ben's research has been generously supported by numerous philanthropic foundations and has received extensive media coverage, including The New York Times, National Public Radio, Time Magazine, and the Washington Post.

Ben is a graduate of Brown University, and completed his doctoral work at Harvard University. Before returning to graduate school, he was a public school teacher and administrator in Providence, RI.

Selected Publications

  • Bird, K.A., Castleman, B.L., Goodman, J., and Lamberton, C. (2017). Nudging at a National Scale: Experimental Evidence from a FAFSA Completion Campaign. EdPolicyWorks Working Paper No. 55. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia.
  • Castleman, B.L., Murphy, F.X., and Skimmyhorn, W. (2017). Marching across generations? An analysis of the benefits transfer provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. EdPolicyWorks Working Paper No. 53. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia.
  • Barr, A., Bird, K., & Castleman, B. L. (2016) Prompting Active Choice Among High-Risk Borrowers: Evidence from a Student Loan Counseling Experiment. EdPolicyWorks Working Paper No. 41. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia.
  • Castleman, B.L. & Page, L.C. (2014). Freshman Year Financial Aid Nudges: An Experiment to Increase FAFSA Renewal and College Persistence. EdPolicyWorks Working Paper No. 28. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia.
  • Bird, K. & Castleman, B.L. (2014). Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? Investigating Rates and Patterns of Financial Aid Renewal Among College Freshmen. EdPolicyWorks Working Paper No. 25. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia.
  • Castleman, B.L., Page, L.C., & Schooley, K. (2014). The Forgotten Summer: Does the Offer of College Counseling After High School Mitigate Summer Melt Among College-Intending, Low-Income High School Graduates? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32(2): 320-344.
  • Castleman, B.L., & Page, L.C. (2014). A Trickle or a Torrent? Understanding the Extent of Summer Melt Among College-Intending High School Graduates. Social Science Quarterly,95(1): 202-220.
  • Castleman, B.L., & Page, L.C. (2013). Summer Nudging: Can Personalized Text Messages and Peer Mentor Outreach Increase College Going Among Low-Income High School Graduates? EdPolicyWorks Working Paper No. 9. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia.
  • Castleman, B.L. (2013). Prompts, Personalization, and Pay-offs: Strategies to Improve the Design and Delivery of College and Financial Aid Information. EdPolicyWorks Working Paper No. 14. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia.
  • Castleman, B.L., & Long, B.T. (2013). Looking Beyond Enrollment: The Causal Effect of Need-Based Grants on College Access, Persistence, and Graduation. NBER Working Paper No. 19,306. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Castleman, B.L., Arnold, K.D., & Wartman, K.L. (2012). Stemming The Tide of Summer Melt: An Experimental Study of the Effects of Post-High School Summer Intervention on College Enrollment. The Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 5(1): 1-18.

Recorded Seminars and Interviews

George Washington University’s FinLit Talks: Interviews with Financial Literacy Thought Leaders
In this interview with George Washington University's Annamaria Lusardi, I discuss the potential for behavioral nudge strategies to improve financial literacy and postsecondary outcomes and to reduce educational inequality.

TEDxUVA’s 2016 Sights Unseen conference
In this video, I gave a TED talk about how to leverage behavioral insights to design low-come, scalable solutions that addresses pressing policy problems at TEDxUVA.

Congressional Testimony
In this video, I testified at the the U.S. House of Representatives Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee oversight hearing on Closing the Achievement Gap in Higher Education. I briefed the Committee on low-cost strategies to improve college persistence and success.

Interview with Gov Innovator Blog About Improving Education Outcomes through Innovative Low-Cost Interventions
In this audio, I discuss how school district leaders, or other state and local education leaders, can strengthen student outcomes through innovative low-cost interventions, such as through text messages. I also discuss my research which focuses on how behavioral economics and social psychology can improve college access and other measures of success for low-income students.

Ed Policy Seminar at University of Virginia
This talk was entitled "Prompts, Personalization, and Pay-offs: Using Behavioral Nudges to Help Students Navigate Complex Postsecondary Decisions," where I discussed new research that explores innovative strategies to help students and their families navigate complex decisions about postsecondary education.

Interview with Curry School of Education on College Access and Success
In this video I discuss why the college admission and enrollment process is such a hot topic and some of the new research I’m working on.