Kayla C. Elliott, Ph.D.
Director for Higher Education Policy
Kayla C. Elliott, Ph.D. is director of higher education policy at The Education Trust, where she leads the team and agenda on promoting access, accountability, and affordability for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. Before taking on a leadership role, Kayla was a policy analyst on the team, focusing on state and federal accountability policies such as student protections, resource equity, and outcomes-based funding.
A daughter and granddaughter of career educators, Kayla has worked on P-20 education issues for more than a decade. Prior to Ed Trust, Kayla held various roles at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), where she earned a Ph.D. in higher education leadership. Her dissertation and much of her work examined the equity implications of outcomes-based funding policies, with a focus on the policies’ influence on historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). At FAU, Kayla taught courses on leadership and student success and served in the Provost’s Office as associate research director for ADVANCE FAU, a National Science Foundation-supported initiative focused on eliminating institutional barriers for women and minority STEM faculty.
Kayla holds a master’s degree from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and has worked with a range of nonprofit education organizations, including Lumina Foundation, the Southern Education Foundation, and Teach For America. A proud HBCU alumna and advocate, Kayla earned a B.S. in business administration from Fisk University, where her experience serving as a student representative on the university’s board of trustees piqued her interest in higher education advocacy.
I am a complete pushover when it comes to my nieces and nephews. They know Auntie Katie will do anything for them!
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?
My favorite form of exploring is reading. I love getting lost in a good novel.
What drew you to education?
I attended a diverse high school, and I was incredibly aware the education and guidance I was receiving in my AP classes was not the same my friends at other schools or even down the hall were getting. I will never forget my classmates’ derogatory reactions when they learned I was attending an HBCU. I work every day to combat those narratives, the policies that shape them, and the systems of power and privilege that keep them in place.
Why are you passionate about working at Ed Trust?
I deeply believe in the power of education, but I’m also acutely aware how deeply higher education is skewed to advantage some and disadvantage far too many. I’m excited to work for an organization that is unabashedly committed to centering students of color. We ask the hard questions, identify the “uncomfortable” problems, and pursue the best solutions that truly foster equity.