University Leaders Nationwide Launch Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

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University Leaders Nationwide Launch Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

Wide-ranging partnership of nearly 40 higher education leaders commits to address major challenges facing students and communities across the country.

Today, leaders from 38 higher education institutions and partner organizations launched the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity. They are driven to act by the challenges of the pandemic, income inequality, the changing nature of work, and unemployment among recent college graduates being nearly double the 2008 recession. The impact of this crisis is falling unevenly across groups, disproportionately impacting people of color no matter their educational backgrounds. The Taskforce will provide greater opportunity to students and their communities, while reimagining higher education's contribution to society and sharing insights with the broader education community.

The Taskforce brings together members from across American higher education, including public, private, two-year, and four-year institutions that represent 2.5 million students nationwide. Taskforce members are focused on three key goals: ensuring student success despite the worst recession since World War II, partnering with local communities, and reimagining how higher education is delivered.

Schools will take individual and collective action to meet the shared mission of the Taskforce through new goals set every six months. Member institutions are now launching the first round of initiatives to prepare the graduates of 2021 - 2023 for success in the post-pandemic economy. In the coming months, Taskforce members will develop programs to support local communities, and additional programs will follow to reimagine the future of higher education and prepare students for work in a post-pandemic world.

“The true measure of success for any higher education institution is the success of all of its students in reaching their full potential. Unfortunately, outcomes for different groups remain unequal, and the Covid-19 pandemic is only exacerbating the differences,” said Georgia Institute of Technology President Ángel Cabrera. “Georgia Tech is proud to join together with peers and partners across the country in this shared commitment. With Career Alliance @ Georgia Tech, we want to ensure all students get the resources and access they need to turn their Georgia Tech degree into long-term professional success.”

For the first round of initiatives, Taskforce members are taking action to set students and graduates up for success and security in the post-pandemic economy. That includes creating opportunities for students to gain valuable skills and professional experience. The first round of initiatives will help prepare students for post-graduate employment through internships, mentoring, credentialing opportunities, and other professional development programs. For example, Career Alliance @ Georgia Tech, an initiative launched by Georgia Tech, will connect students with internship, work-study, and mentorship opportunities to learn marketable job skills.

"The career advancement program we’re launching will be a true game-changer," said Anne M. Kress, President of Northern Virginia Community College, and Taskforce executive committee member. "The Achieve Career Excellence (ACE) program demonstrates how an essential road to recovery for individuals, communities, and the economy runs through our nation’s community colleges."

Though each initiative is different, all focus on helping students learn the skills they need to begin a successful career after graduation. Achieve Career Excellence enables Northern Virginia Community College students to earn professional credentials while still at school, giving them a leg up in the post-graduate hiring process. The University of Texas System's initiative will also expand credentialing opportunities for students, identifying skill gaps from employers statewide and empowering students to fill those gaps by learning in-demand skills.

"Higher education plays a unique role in unlocking opportunity. It should deliver for all members of our society," said James B. Milliken, Chancellor of the University of Texas System, and Taskforce executive committee member. "Post-graduate success today isn't going to look like post-graduate success tomorrow. Our initiative, Texas Credentials for the Future, focuses on ensuring that support is in place long after students leave campus."

Taskforce membership will continue to grow to diversify and scale impact with a focus on action – uniquely positioning the Taskforce in the higher education space. To learn more about the Taskforce and member institutions' initiatives, click here.

Taskforce members include:

  • Mark Becker, President of Georgia State University
  • Gene D. Block, Chancellor of University of California, Los Angeles
  • Seth Bodnar, President of University of Montana
  • Bob Brown, President of Boston University*
  • Ángel Cabrera, President of Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Mary Schmidt Campbell, President of Spelman College*
  • Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University
  • Carol Folt, President of University of Southern California*
  • Joan Gabel, President University of Minnesota
  • Patrick Gallagher, Chancellor of University of Pittsburgh
  • Michael L. Good, President of University of Utah
  • Kevin Guskiewicz, Chancellor of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Andrew David Hamilton, President of New York University
  • Anne Kress, President of Northern Virginia Community College*
  • Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University
  • Linda Livingstone, President of Baylor University
  • Sarah Mangelsdorf, President of University of Rochester
  • Andrew Martin, Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis
  • Harold Martin, Chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University
  • Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Chancellor of City University of New York*
  • Gary May, Chancellor of University of California, Davis
  • Joe May, Chancellor of Dallas College
  • James Milliken, Chancellor of University of Texas System*
  • Mark Mitsui, President of Portland Community College
  • Darryll Pines, President of University of Maryland
  • Vincent Price, President of Duke University
  • Scott Pulsipher, President of Western Governors University*
  • Scott Ralls, President of Wake Technical Community College
  • Robert C. Robbins, President of University of Arizona*
  • Timothy Sands, President of Virginia Tech
  • Michael Schill, President of University of Oregon
  • Kate Smith, President of Rio Salado College
  • Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., President of Michigan State University
  • Astrid S. Tuminez, President of Utah Valley University
  • Gregory Washington, President of George Mason University
  • Federico Zaragoza, President of College of Southern Nevada
  • Ruth Watkins, President of Strada Impact at Strada Education Network
  • André Dua, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company*

* Indicates Taskforce Executive Committee Member and/or Goal 1 Initiative Lead