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Education ‘Stakes Have Never Been Higher’

Under Sec­re­tary of Edu­ca­tion Ted Mitchell deliv­ered his final speech as a senior member of the Obama admin­is­tra­tion on Thursday morning at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, saying that inno­va­tion in higher edu­ca­tion is crit­ical to the suc­cess of the nation’s democracy.

This article, written by Jason Kornwitz, was originally posted by news @ Northeastern on January 13, 2017

Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell has led the charge to implement President Obama’s goal to develop “the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world.” Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University.

Under Sec­re­tary of Edu­ca­tion Ted Mitchell deliv­ered his final speech as a senior member of the Obama admin­is­tra­tion on Thursday morning at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, saying that inno­va­tion in higher edu­ca­tion is crit­ical to the suc­cess of the nation’s democracy.

“Our col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties must strive each day to embody the highest aspi­ra­tions of this country,” Mitchell told nearly 100 edu­ca­tion stake­holders who filled the Alumni Center for the hour­long event, which was orga­nized by the New Eng­land Council. “They must be a bul­wark for lib­erty and equality, diver­sity and inclu­sive­ness, freedom and oppor­tu­nity,” he added. “If we retreat from those respon­si­bil­i­ties, we risk the via­bility of our democracy.”

Since his appoint­ment in 2014, Mitchell has over­seen a score of poli­cies, pro­grams, and activ­i­ties related to post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion and fed­eral stu­dent aid. To spur edu­ca­tion, eco­nomic growth, and social pros­perity, he’s led the charge to imple­ment Pres­i­dent Obama’s goal to develop “the best edu­cated, most com­pet­i­tive work­force in the world.”

Malachi Her­nandez, SSH’21, right, hugs Mitchell after intro­ducing the under sec­re­tary of edu­ca­tion to the nearly 100 higher edu­ca­tion stake­holders in attendance.

Throughout his talk, he under­scored the impor­tance of expanding edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties for all Amer­i­cans. He focused in par­tic­ular on edu­cating non-​​traditional stu­dents, whom he described as “todays new normal.” “To reach the president’s goal,” he said, “we need to open the doors of higher edu­ca­tion to stu­dents usu­ally excluded from college.”

For Mitchell, col­lege edu­ca­tion is cru­cial to closing the nation’s income inequality gap. According to new data com­piled by the Eco­nomic Policy Insti­tute, the average col­lege grad­uate earned 56 per­cent more than the typ­ical high school grad­uate in 2015, the largest such gap in EPIs fig­ures since 1973. What’s more, high school grad­u­ates are less likely than their college-​​educated peers to be mar­ried, own a home, and con­tribute to a 401(k)-style retire­ment plan.

“The stakes have never been higher for post-​​secondary edu­ca­tion,” Mitchell explained. “Our col­lec­tive com­mit­ment to col­lege access and afford­ability must remain strong if we want to sus­tain the health of our democracy.”

Mitchell noted that North­eastern has served as a leader in higher edu­ca­tion inno­va­tion, pointing in par­tic­ular to its part­ner­ship with Gen­eral Elec­tric Co. in a new fed­eral edu­ca­tion inno­va­tion pro­gram. Known as EQUIP, the Edu­ca­tional Quality through Inno­v­a­tive Part­ner­ships pro­gram aims to increase stu­dents’ access to inno­v­a­tive post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion while spurring novel col­lab­o­ra­tions designed to arm more Amer­i­cans with the skills required to excel in the 21st century.

“Our part­ner­ship with North­eastern makes this feel like home,” said Mitchell, who first vis­ited the uni­ver­sity in 2014 for a round­table on higher edu­ca­tion. “It’s a priv­i­lege to be here.”

Level, Northeastern’s boot­camp designed to equip pro­fes­sionals with in-​​​​demand data ana­lytics skills, is men­tioned in the Office of Edu­ca­tional Technology’s sup­ple­ment to the National Tech­nology Plan, which Mitchell announced on Thursday at the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nology. And Northeastern’s ALIGN pro­gram—which offers eight master’s degrees in cutting-​​edge indus­tries to working pro­fes­sionals who do not have the expe­ri­ence to match the needs of these fields—is another example of the university’s inno­v­a­tive approach to life­long learning. Launched in spring 2014, ALIGN is the nation’s only expe­ri­en­tial grad­uate degree pro­gram for stu­dents who want to switch careers and need both an advanced degree and the real-​​​​world expe­ri­ence to do so.

Our part­ner­ship with North­eastern makes this feel like home,” Mitchell told the audi­ence. “It’s a priv­i­lege to be here.”“

Noting the program’s suc­cess in her opening remarks, Philomena Man­tella, senior vice pres­i­dent and CEO of Northeastern’s Pro­fes­sional Advance­ment Net­work, said: “North­eastern is all about inno­va­tion. We believe higher edu­ca­tion has the oblig­a­tion to con­tinue to inno­vate while removing the chasm between work and learning.”

In the Q&A, mod­er­ator Chris Gabrieli, chairman of the Mass­a­chu­setts Board of Higher Edu­ca­tion, asked Mitchell to name the top pri­ority for post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion stake­holders. In response, Mitchell chan­neled North­eastern, noting the impor­tance of designing flex­ible learning pro­grams for non-​​traditional students.

“We’re doing every­thing we can at the insti­tu­tional level to break the tyranny of time and space to create pro­grams that are more tai­lored to where stu­dents are and what their oblig­a­tions are,” he said.

Later, one audi­ence member asked Mitchell to assess the cur­rent state of the nation’s higher edu­ca­tion system. “We are edu­cating more Amer­i­cans across a broad spec­trum of back­grounds and abil­i­ties than ever before,” he said. But, he added, “we’ve been slow to con­nect higher edu­ca­tion out­comes with the changing dynamics of the economy.”

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