Lumina Foundation: Working to ensure a quality education for all Americans

Lumina Foundation: Working to ensure a quality education for all Americans

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Today in the United States – and in really
across the world – there’s a huge gap between the haves and have-nots and that gap is only growing. Most of the have-nots are people that
have been left behind and left out of the education system. We have to focus
our efforts on ensuring that all students, particularly those who have
been left out, those who are racial and ethnic minorities, those who are
immigrants, those who are adults, those who are living at or below the poverty
line, have the ability to access and be successful in postsecondary learning. Lumina Foundation was created to make
sure that high-quality, post-high school learning opportunities are available to
all and we’ve done that through a unique mechanism. We’ve set a time-limited,
quantitative goal for our work. We believe that 60% of Americans should
have a high-quality degree, certificate, or other credential by 2025. In 2008,
about 38% of Americans had a degree. Since then we’ve now seen a
total increase in the attainment rate of Americans to forty-eight percent by 2018.
So we have made progress on post-high school learning but we will not achieve
the 2025 goal at the current rate. Our current system does not address today’s students – those who are more racially / ethnically diverse, those who are older,
those who have many other obligations. Our current system also doesn’t address
how people learn nowadays. Today and tomorrow’s students are going to
require a different type of learning. They’re going to require education
throughout their lifetime. They’re going to constantly need to upskill and
reskill so they can compete in a global economy. And for colleges and
universities to be successful, they’re going to have to better serve today’s
students. We also have a huge number of adults who are out there in society and
who don’t have any post-high school training and we need to be as focused on
those adults who maybe started college but didn’t finish. How can we get them
back into an educational training program into a postsecondary degree
program, so that they can get the training and the credential that will
make a difference for their family. The only thing that gets us to where we
want to go, and need to go is education – education that enables people to live a
full life. The data in the U.S. is really clear. Jobs for people without some level
of postsecondary education do not pay well. In order to change that
more Americans need to have a higher level of education that they can apply
to work that enables them to earn a better living. So our model at Lumina Foundation is
system change, and we tend to work therefore with large collaborative
partnerships of employers, of colleges and universities, of workforce entities
so, for example, we are working at a community level through something called Talent Hubs. We’ve established these Talent Hubs in more than two dozen
American cities, and in those communities, there are business leaders, civic leaders,
education leaders, and NGO leaders who have come together, set goals in those
communities, and have agreed to actually work together to increase postsecondary
attainment through their collaborative efforts. One of the most exciting things
about the work we’re doing at Lumina right now is that we recognize that if
we’re going to actually assure that credentials are of high quality that
employers and businesses have to be very closely aligned with and actually
working together with educators to design programs that are tightly aligned
to what employers need. Not just to the technical needs they have right now, but
to how they are seeing around the corner of what’s coming next. We want to make sure that all credentials lead to employment – and that is – have a labor
market premium beyond a high school or secondary credential alone so that’s
very important. But we also want to make sure they’re not dead into credentials.
So we want to constantly build pathways to further education and to employment
opportunities. As we’ve expanded the number of people who need these
credentials there’s a lot of innovation we’re trying to generate to enable
people to go to school in different ways. And that’s fantastic, that’s really
important, but we have this concept of innovating responsibly. There are lots of
innovative ways to do it, but we want to make sure that all of
those ways make sure that you are genuinely developing the skills and
abilities people need so that that credential will really unlock
opportunity for people. When you set a goal like Lumina has set, or like the UN
has set with SDG 4, you have more purpose and accountability toward a goal
and achieve it much more successfully in the end. When we develop grant programs that encourage individuals or institutions or States to focus on
closing equity gaps and we provide grant dollars so that they will do that, it
actually does affect behavior and it affects the things that individuals
create as their priorities. So we are known for the dollars that we commit for
certain resources but I think that we also play an important role as a thought
partner, as a thought leader in terms of changing the conversation, but also just
putting important issues on the agenda and giving people new ways to think
about things. Better education is the best shot at
enabling a higher level of income and therefore a fuller, better life and when
that happens it then also enables people to participate more fully and not only
ensuring that their life continues to be good but also that the the life of the
community around them in which they participate also continues to get better.

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