Press Release

Quality, Completion, and Affordability: Priorities for Undergraduate Education Highlighted in New Videos


CAMBRIDGE, MA | December 10, 2019 – The American Academy of Arts & Sciences and TIAA Institute today released three videos focused on the national priorities set forth by the Academy’s Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education: quality, completion, and affordability.

The videos further the work of the Commission, which is chaired by Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. (TIAA) and Michael S. McPherson (formerly, Spencer Foundation). The multiyear initiative convened leaders from higher education, philanthropy, business, and government and charged them with understanding persistent challenges facing colleges and universities across the country and also identifying promising practices to address them.

“The success of our democracy and our economy depends on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the challenge of providing students with the education they need at a cost they can afford,” said David W. Oxtoby, President of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and former president of Pomona College. “The Academy is committed to reaching the broadest range of institutions and audiences possible with both the challenges and solutions.”

The Commission’s comprehensive report, The Future of Undergraduate Education, The Future of America, set forth three national priorities to help ensure that students realize the significant benefits of higher education in a timely manner without taking on onerous debt:

  1. Strengthen the Student Educational Experience
  2. Increase Completion and Reduce Inequities
  3. Control Costs and Increase Affordability

“Identifying innovative, successful, and replicable approaches to persistent challenges is a powerful way to contribute to improving higher education,” said Ferguson, President and CEO of TIAA. “We must also commit to investing in educational success. Helping to ensure that students are educated within a reasonable amount of time and at manageable expense will make a difference not just in the lives of the individual students, but also in the strength and vitality of our higher education system and of society as a whole.”

The videos, funded by the TIAA Institute and Carnegie Corporation of New York, feature promising practices for addressing the Commission’s priorities:

  • Cornell University’s Active Learning Initiative looks at innovative teaching approaches, which lead to increased student comprehension.
  • Florida State University’s commitment to retention and completion has resulted in high graduation rates for students from all backgrounds, including those who were formerly homeless, in foster care, or first-generation college students.
  • Cincinnati State Technical and Community College implemented a program that made degrees more affordable for students and more economical for the school.

“The United States used to face a challenge of quantity in undergraduate education, but it is now a challenge of quality, and we need to address this new challenge in new ways or we won’t achieve the benefits,” said McPherson, formerly the president of the Spencer Foundation and, before that, the President of Macalester College. “The promise of higher education is only realized when the student graduates having completed an education of value and with a promising future and financial security ahead.”

The Academy and Commissioners continue to engage in a range of outreach activities to increase the audience and understanding of the national priorities of quality, completion, and affordability.

The two most recent extensions of the Commission’s work are these videos highlighting innovative programs and the Fall 2019 Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, focused on improving quality in higher education. The issue, Improving Teaching: Strengthening the College Learning Experience, edited by McPherson and Sandy Baum (Urban Institute), features 12 essays with topics ranging from online learning and occupational skills to racism and civic learning.

The work of the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education, including these videos, has been generously supported by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The videos are online, along with more information about the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education and the national priorities for undergraduate education, at


Learn more

American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Carnegie Corporation of New York

TIAA Institute



Alison Franklin, American Academy of Arts & Sciences
(617) 576-5043

Michael Tetuan, TIAA
(704) 988-2790





Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education

Roger W. Ferguson and Michael S. McPherson