Catharine Hill

Catharine HillCatharine 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.  Vassar has also admitted 11 veterans to the Class of 2017,  through a joint inititative with the Posse Foundation.  The Vassar Veterans Posse is the first of a new program that we hope will spread to other colleges and universities in the coming years. Other initiatives include greater community outreach, and the development of tools and resources for institutional research and long-term planning. Hill also teaches an advanced-level seminar at Vassar on the economics of higher education. 

Hill continues to study 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 "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), recent publications with longtime co-author Gordon C. Winston. She has also authored opinion pieces for the Los Angeles Times, Business Week, The Christian Science Monitor, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed, and been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News Service, Money magazine, and the New York Times, 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 was recently elected to serve as an alumni fellow to the Yale Corporation.  Hill 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 responsibilites. 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.

Member of the Cooper Union Board since 2013

Term ends: 2021


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.