Press Release
May 9, 2024

The Academy Launches New Commission on Opportunities After High School


Cambridge, MA – Students graduating from high school in America today are entering a rapidly changing world and are likely to have many questions: Should I go to college? How much debt will I take on? Will my degree enable me to pay off that debt? Can I get a well-paying job without a college degree? What options match my interests and strengths? Will the job I choose today be a reliable career ten years from now? What is right for my situation?  The answers are often hard to find. 

The lack of clear and cogent information about opportunities after high school has enormous implications for the economy and for higher education, as well as for the students themselves. High school graduates stand at an intersection of education, business, and broad economic and societal forces. That intersection is not well-lit, nor are there helpful signs, making it especially hard for people who have historically encountered financial, geographic, racial, and other barriers to advancement. 

Systemic change is required to foster informed decision-making among students, enable effective planning by colleges and universities, and promote business growth. In recognition of this need, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is launching a Commission on Opportunities After High School.

“It is in the best interests of America’s students, economy, and democracy that we reimagine how high school students navigate their choices,” said Academy President David Oxtoby. “This Commission will bring together educators, economists, and employers. While no single sector can be fully responsible for the work, together we can make progress.” 

The Commission is an interdisciplinary and nonpartisan multiyear effort led by: 

  • Nancy Cantor, Chancellor, Rutgers University–Newark; incoming president, Hunter College, CUNY, 

  • Harrison KellerCommissioner of Higher Education and Chief Executive Officer, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
  • Bridget Terry Long, Dean and Saris Professor of Education and Economics, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The members of the Commission are scholars and leaders in K12 and higher education, business, medicine, arts, and philanthropy who will bridge disciplines and divides to unite sectors that are often siloed. They will identify challenges and recommend best practices for a modern educational system that addresses the needs of all Americans. Through listening sessions, expert roundtables, and bipartisan, cross-sector discussions, the Commission will develop recommendations that reimagine and strengthen student pathways after high school to ensure students can choose and succeed in the path that best serves their needs and aspirations. 

The Commission is generously supported by the William T. Grant Foundation, Spencer Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and funding from anonymous sources. 

This Commission builds on and connects to prior Academy efforts to strengthen democracy, reimagine the economy, and fortify education. Previous higher education projects include a Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education that examined ways to improve the quality of student learning, increase college completion rates, and ensure greater affordability, as well as one dedicated to supporting public colleges and universitiesThe new Commission on Opportunities After High School also connects to the work of the Academy’s Commission on Reimagining the Economy with its focus on how Americans experience the economy and putting people first and to the Our Common Purpose work to strengthen democracy in America. 

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences, founded in 1780, is an honorary society that recognizes excellence across disciplines and professions and convenes members and other experts to address issues of importance to the nation. 

The First Meeting of the Commission

First Meeting of the Commission on Opportunities After High School



Commission on Opportunities After High School

Nancy E. Cantor, Harrison Keller, and Bridget Terry Long