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Unity through Higher Education? How Increased Access to a Postsecondary Education May Soothe Post-Election Discord

It was impossible during CAEL’s 2016 International Conference last week to avoid the topic of the presidential election and what the results will mean for higher education in the U.S. As panels of experts noted throughout the duration of the conference, it’s of course far too soon to make any prognostication about the ramifications of the elections with any real confidence.

As pundits, policy wonks and academics only start to debate about the potential long-term impact of the election, however, some experts are looking at how an increased access to education opportunities could provide reason for optimism for those belonging to all sides of the political spectrum.

Specifically, Daniel Greenstein, director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke at CAEL’s opening keynote “Higher Education at the Crossroads: Bridge to Opportunity or Reproducer of Privilege?” about some of the potential opportunities for bipartisan cooperation to improve access to higher education. As noted in a write-up of his keynote by The Hechinger Report (and shared by RealClearEducation), Greenstein sees frightening consequences if more Americans cannot have access to the education they need to keep the U.S. competitive and its economy moving.

Noting that more than 95 percent of jobs created during the U.S.’s economic recovery went to workers with some college education, the article draws Greenstein’s call for more equitable access to higher education—by way of decreased tuition costs, increased use of competency-based education programs and so on—with an optimistic look at how the next administration could—and should—help people who need higher education get it.

“Learning means re-defining prestige,” said Greenstein at his keynote. “Moments of transformation are about convergence.” Let’s redouble our efforts to improve access to higher education for underserved populations and make that convergence happen.

To read the full article about Daniel Greenstein’s keynote, click here.


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