America’s education system is centuries old. Can we build something better?

The Lumina Foundation lays out steps for increasing access to quality post-secondary education credentials.

ELIZABETH GARLOW: At Lumina, we are especially interested in trying to increase the number of individuals with a quality post-secondary credential. So, we want clear and flexible pathways to help individuals get the education that they need to lead a better life. And for us, that means a few things. It means trying to help individuals have their learning recognized wherever it may take place, whether it's in the military, or in the workplace, or in libraries. So how do we find ways to capture, recognize, and validate that learning toward a credential?

Second, we really want to ensure that those pathways for individuals are affordable. It's really hard to understand the true cost of education today. And so we're interested in helping people understand what a credential really costs and what that ROI on a credential might be. Third, we want to move toward a national competency-based education system, where what you know is more important than the time you're spending in a seat in a classroom.

And fourth, we want a national quality assurance system where we can really understand what a quality credential looks like, what are the outcomes that someone is achieving with that credential. We need to make quality learning opportunities available for millions of Americans who look different from those students that our systems were really built to serve. So, our post-high school education landscape today was really built to serve students that might be full-time, campus-based. And the reality is today that we have a very different student demographic. Over 40% of students enrolled in some sort of post-secondary education today are over the age of 25. They might be taking care of families. They might be commuting to campus. And so we need to create educational systems and pathways that are really friendly to their needs and what they're capable of achieving.

Another thing that's really unique about Lumina is we are looking to better understand the systemic historic factors that have created an unequal education system and how we can close gaps in education and educational attainment by race and ethnicity. We will not be able to get to the place that we want to be as a nation to be globally competitive in a talent marketplace unless we close those gaps in attainment. So we really are interested at Lumina in what we call our equity imperative, which is, how do we ensure that we create a more equitable post-secondary education system that works for all?

  • America's post-high school education landscape was not created with the modern student in mind. Today, clear and flexible pathways are necessary to help individuals access education that can help them lead a better life.
  • Elizabeth Garlow explains the Lumina Foundation's strategy to create a post-secondary education system that works for all students. This includes credential recognition, affordability, a more competency-based system, and quality assurance.
  • Systemic historic factors have contributed to inequality in the education system. Lumina aims to close those gaps in educational attainment.
  • In 2019, Lumina Foundation and Big Think teamed up to create the Lumina Prize, a search to find the most innovative and scalable ideas in post-secondary education. You can see the winners of the Lumina Prize here – congratulations to PeerForward and Greater Commons!