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Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education

Higher education continues to be one of the most important avenues of opportunity in American society. But the education landscape is changing rapidly. There are more options for how and when Americans receive some form of higher education. New populations, for whom the traditional four-year degree was once an impossibility, can now pursue undergraduate education in two-year, four-year, for-profit, and online institutions, according to schedules that fit their own lives. And technological advances offer new approaches to student instruction and collaboration. At the same time, rising costs are challenging the affordability of traditional postsecondary degrees.

The American Academy has undertaken a three-year project to examine the state of postsecondary education in America, and to provide ideas for how to ensure that individual Americans receive the education they need to thrive in the twenty-first century. To give the Commission a clear direction, the Academy has begun by compiling A Primer on the College Student Journey, a comprehensive and data-rich portrait of American postsecondary education—incorporating quantitative and qualitative studies that examine every type of postsecondary institution, from early college high schools to private universities.

Also read:

The Top Ten Takeaways about Undergraduates

College attainment rates are troublingly unequal: Among twenty-five- to twenty-nine-year-olds, in 2015, 50 percent of women had a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with 41 percent of men. . . Read more

Members of the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education


  • Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.
  • Michael S. McPherson
    Spencer Foundation


  • Joseph E. Aoun
    Northeastern University
  • Deborah Loewenberg Ball
    University of Michigan School of Education
  • Sandy Baum
    Urban Institute
  • Rebecca M. Blank
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • John Seely Brown
    formerly, Xerox PARC Research
  • Wesley G. Bush
    Northrop Grumman
  • Carl A. Cohn
    Claremont Graduate University
  • Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.
    Purdue University
  • John J. DeGioia
    Georgetown University
  • Jonathan F. Fanton
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Robert Hormats
    Kissinger Associates; formerly, United States Department of State
  • Freeman A. Hrabowski III
    University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • Jennifer L. Jennings
    New York University
  • Jeremy Johnson
  • Daphne Koller
    Coursera, Inc.; Stanford University
  • Sherry Lansing
    Sherry Lansing Foundation
  • Nicholas Lemann
    Columbia University Graduate School
    of Journalism
  • J. Michael Locke
    formerly, Rasmussen, Inc.
  • Monica Lozano
    U.S. Hispanic Media; La Opinión
  • Gail O. Mellow
    LaGuardia Community College
  • Diana Natalicio
    University of Texas at El Paso
  • Hilary Pennington
    Ford Foundation
  • Beverly Daniel Tatum
    Spelman College
  • Shirley M. Tilghman
    Princeton University
  • Michelle Weise
    Southern New Hampshire University

Data Advisory Group

  • Tom Bailey
    Columbia University
  • Sandy Baum
    Urban Institute
  • Ronald G. Ehrenberg
    Cornell University
  • Bridget Terry Long
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Judith Scott-Clayton
    Columbia University

Project Staff

  • Francesca Purcell
  • Eliza Berg

Support for the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education is provided by a $2.2 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Related Publications

Published from   thru      Type:    
 Title and SynopsisTo Order
A Primer on the College Student Journey
American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2016
Buy from the Academy

Free Download:
   PDF document

Project Chairs

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., TIAA

Michael S. McPherson, Spencer Foundation

New Publication

A Primer on the College Student Journey

Read this data-rich portrait of American postsecondary education.

In the News

America’s Great Working-Class Colleges
Diana Natalicio, University of Texas at El Paso, commission member
The New York Times
Why so many students from for-profit schools are left in debt limbo
Sandy Baum, Urban Institute, commission member
PBS NewsHour
Inside Higher Ed

Learn More About this Project