Jamie P. Merisotis, Lumina Foundation

TITLE: President and CEO

FUNDING AREAS: College readiness and higher education

CONTACT: jmerisotis@luminafoundation.org, 317-951-5300

IP TAKE: Merisotis has laid out an ambitious goal for the Lumina Foundation and has set a strategy for achieving it. Organizations seeking support from this funder should invest some time in strategic planning and have clear metrics for performance.

PROFILE: Throughout his career, Jamie P. Merisotis has championed the idea that higher education benefits both society as a whole and the individuals in it. This viewpoint perhaps makes him the ideal leader for the nation's largest foundation that is devoted solely to increasing the number of college-educated Americans.

As president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation in Indianapolis, Merisotis has established a clear goal for the organization. This goal is for the proportion of Americans holding high-quality postsecondary degrees and credentials to reach 60 percent by the year 2025. At present, less than 40 percent of Americans hold such credentials. Merisotis and the Lumina Foundation established this target, known as Goal 2025, after extensive research and strategic planning.

National economic and education trends informed Goal 2025. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, 65 percent of all new jobs created in the United States will require a postsecondary credential. With less than 40 percent of Americans holding such credentials, increasing the number of Americans with college degrees will be necessary for the nation to remain an economic power in the global economy.

Merisotis' agenda is that all Lumina activities, including grantmaking, work toward achieving this goal. Organizations interested in obtaining funding from the Lumina Foundation should be aware of this goal and have a clear strategy for helping to achieve it.

The Lumina Foundation president also knows that achieving Goal 2025 is not possible without expanding access to higher education for low-income students, ethnic minorities, and first-generation college students. A first-generation college graduate himself, who studied political science at Bates College in Maine, Merisotis knows the value of higher education for these and other groups that historically have been underserved by the higher education system. Merisotis believes underserved student groups are no longer the exception, but the rule, in higher education.

Increasing the number of college-educated Americans requires not only greater access to higher education but also a reduction in academic achievement gaps that have persisted for decades. Merisotis calls these gaps "a national scourge." Access alone is not enough and its becoming increasingly evident that American society can no longer choose between equity and excellence, but must have both.

Students must be able to access postsecondary education and must have the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in credit-bearing programs culminating in a degree or certificate. Succeeding in college requires academic preparation and the requisite noncognitive skills and characteristics, such as time management and study skills. Organizations with a focus on college readiness that addresses not only issues of access and college knowledge but also the academic and noncognitive skills necessary for success may find strong allies in Merisotis and the Lumina Foundation.

Before joining the Lumina Foundation in 2008, Merisotis was founding president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy. While there, he helped establish the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, a coalition of national organizations, historically African American colleges, tribal colleges and universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions.

Merisotis also has been executive director of the National Commission on Responsibilities for Financing Postsecondary Education, a presidential commission in which he authored the panel's final report, "Making College Affordable Again." He also helped create the Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps) during the Clinton administration.

A recognized expert on higher education policy, Merisotis has been published in the National Journal, Washington Post, Chronicle of Higher Education, and other publications.