Molly Martin: Ops & Learning Officer, Lumina Foundation

What is the mission of Lumina and what do you at the organization?
Our mission is to expand access to and success in education beyond high school, particularly among adults, first-generation college going students, low-income students and students of color. Our mission is focused on Goal 2025: to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials1 to 60 percent by the year 2025.
How did you get started doing this? What motivated you?
I joined the Foundation in 2007 after working in student services and faculty/staff affairs in higher education for over six years.  Having been passionate about any opportunity to apply a social equity lens in my professional life, I was thrilled to learn that an organization like Lumina was tackling the most critical socioeconomic issue around:  access to independence and opportunity through post-secondary education.  Working here has exposed me to the other ways in which education is an engine for social growth:  as an economic expansion tool, as a way to engage those students undergoing rigorous workforce training, etc.  I have a broader world view thanks to my experiences at Lumina.  It’s exciting work!
Tell us about the most recent news, the release of the second edition of “A Stronger Nation through Higher Education.” How was this decided? And what will be the outcome of your new path?
This second edition reflects an idea that Lumina and others have been advocating for quite some time:  our rate of production of high-quality degrees–two- and four-year–is lagging in the U.S.  This will ultimately lead to a shortage of skilled workers for the new knowledge economy and continue to feed equity gaps (Latinos, for example, ar the nation’s fastest growing demographic but current messages, resources and structures in higher education seem to cut them out).  While the nation’s global competitiveness will be helped by Goal 2025, global competitiveness is not at the heart of the matter.  The U.S. needs to see improved post-secondary degree attainment to improve productivity, expand the economy and provide security for its citizenry.  Some of the rest of the world has come to this conclusion faster than the current U.S. system has allowed us to.   We fully expect that equipping states—among the most critical actors—with quality data and the thought leadership of our partners will yield action on Goal 2025 on the ground.
It seems like we need to get booking if we are going to have a proper number of college graduates in this country soon, according to this Houston Chronicle article.  What must we do to achieve this?
True…I remember writing 2010 for the first time after New Year’s and thinking, “Wow…2025 is a lot closer than it used to be!”   In short, in order to reach this important goal, higher education thought leaders, institutions, policymakers and consumers must focus on improved preparation (financial, academic, social), success (completion paired with high-quality, relevant learning outcomes) and productivity (producing more degrees while controlling costs and without sacrificing quality).  We have a lot of exciting work going on in all three of these critical areas, from work to build a sustainable college access network in the U.S., to work to “tune” the system so we better understand what quality degrees mean in terms of what graduates know and can do.  We also have exciting work being done by states to address the productivity and accountability of their own university systems;  they know that graduation is more important, even, than enrollment and many states are ready to recognize it. I’d urge those passionate about education reform to check out the projects above as well as other vital work with Minority Serving Institutions and returning adult students.
This comment by John Richard Schrock prompted a question for me at the Houston Chronicle, where you recently published a letter about college degree uptake: “The ACT finds only 23% of ACT test-taker are college ready. NCPPHE and SREB find that about 15% of students at selective colleges, half at state universities and three-fourths at community colleges need remediation.”  It seems that simply funding new entrants into college may not be that effective. Don’t you worry that enabling more people who are not ready for college to attend college may make their life more economically difficult? How would you handle this situation?
Agreed. Funding students or asking more institutions to open their doors wider is not the answer–although improved access is critical.  Improving the delivery/outcomes of developmental education is a key strategy to improving student success and an area in which Lumina continues to convene thought leaders and policy advocates.  We also support the development of improved policy and practice to align high school graduation standards to college readiness, important work being done by organizations like Achieve, National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.