Part I Of The Exclusive Ideagen Interview With Lumina Foundation’s Dr. Danette Howard With Ideagen’s George Sifakis

Could you please describe the mission and goals of Lumina Foundation?

Dr. Howard: Lumina Foundation is the only national foundation that has a sole commitment to increasing and enhancing post secondary access and success. Our main focus is to increase the number of Americans who are able to obtain high quality degrees and credentials because we believe that our nation thoroughly needs to have an educated population and workforce. We also know that when individuals receive those post secondary degrees and credentials they are not only able to make a difference in the workforce, but those credentials also have an impact and meaningful, lasting impression on their own lives.

How has your work at Lumina Foundation inspired you?

Dr. Howard: Well it’s really wonderful to be able to work everyday with a group of individuals who are so committed to the same goal. Everyone here at Lumina really has an earnest and deep-seeded commitment to helping the nation’s population become more educated and securing those credentials that I spoke about previously. It is an incredible honor to be able to work with individuals who have that commitment to that same goal. We think that our work can make a difference; we think that we can help the country meet its goals in terms of post-secondary achievement and also having a more educated workforce. Everything that we do is focused on post-secondary education and success. Every grant that we make, every meeting that we host, every opportunity that we have to be a thought leader in this space is all devoted to that one singular mission and goal. It is privilege to be able to work in this kind of an environment.

Please describe the goals for 2025?

Dr. Howard: Several years ago, under the leadership of our CEO, Jamie Merisotis, Lumina Foundation developed goal 2025. The goal articulates that by the year 2025 60% of Americans will hold a degree or high quality post-secondary credentials. When we say degree or high quality post-secondary credential, we mean one with clear learning outcomes, and that will lead to further opportunities both in terms of employment and post-secondary education. Right now, the nation stands at about 40%; that is, 40% of adults in this country have either a certificate, degree, or other high quality credential. But we believe, that in order to fuel the workforce of the 21st century, America has to have at least 60% of its population with those degrees and credentials. Again, everything that we do at Lumina is focused on that goal. Our grant making is focused on that goal, as are all the other activities and initiatives that we are involved in and that we have the good fortune to support.

Why are these goals so urgent?

Dr. Howard: I think that these goals are urgent for a number of reasons. One, it is very clear that 2/3 of the jobs that will be available in the year 2020 will require some education beyond high school, and so in order to ensure that individuals are prepared to fill those jobs we have to make sure that they have access to high quality post-secondary opportunities that will prepare them to thrive in those employment opportunities. That’s one reason. There is a great sense of urgency around that because the year 2020 is right around the corner. The other is, when you look at where the nation sits now relative to other nations, we have really slipped in terms of the level of post-secondary attainment of the United States. We were once number one in terms of the world’s countries with college degree holders. We no longer hold that position; we actually have dropped quite a number of spots. The nation’s economic competitiveness relies upon our ability to make sure that more of our citizens are educated with some sort of post-secondary education. If an individual is going to be able to have an opportunity to join the middle class, to have the kind of standard of living that most people aspire to, we know that there is a really clear link between post-secondary education and the ability to join the middle class. For those reasons, we at Lumina Foundation believe that there is a great sense of urgency around Goal 2025 and we take seriously our role in being able to champion the goal and we also think that we have a role to influence others to adopt the goal and take it on as their own.

07/26/2016 04:30 pm ET