Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education


Our nation’s effort over two centuries to provide education to everyone who lives and works within the United States is an expression of a core belief, one that has survived a long history of challenges: that all people, through learning, can achieve higher goals for themselves and for society as a whole.

Progress toward universal education has expanded most recently to colleges and universities. Today, almost 90 percent of high school graduates can expect to enroll in an undergraduate institution at some point during young adulthood and they are joined by millions of adults seeking to improve their lives. What was once a challenge of quantity in American undergraduate education, of enrolling as many students as possible, is now a challenge of quality—of making sure that all students receive the rigorous education they need to succeed, that they are able to complete the studies they begin, and that they can do this affordably, without mortgaging the very future they seek to improve.

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences formed the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education to develop a national strategy to help students and their families, colleges and universities, government policy-makers, and business leaders and philanthropists reach this next level. The future success of our democracy, our economy, and our nation will depend on our commitment to an inclusive ideal of an educated society.

Learn more about the priorities outlined by the Commission in its final report, The Future of Undergraduate Education, The Future of America:

View videos featuring innovative, successful, and replicable approaches to each of the Commission’s three national priorities.



Commission Members

John Seely Brown

University of Southern California
Independent Co-Chairman, Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation
Academy Member

Jonathan Fanton

American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Academy Member

Robert Hormats

Kissinger Associates; formerly, United States Department of State

Sherry Lee Lansing

Sherry Lansing Foundation
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Academy Member

Nicholas B. Lemann

Columbia Journalism School
Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism; Dean Emeritus
Academy Member

Shirley M. Tilghman

Princeton University
President Emerita and Professor of Biology and Public Affairs
Academy Member
Data Advisory Group


News & Updates

News & Updates





Outreach is focused on engaging federal and state policy makers, academic leaders, and funding organizations in a discussion of the Commission’s findings. The goal of these efforts is to advance a broad set of recommendations aimed at improving the quality of undergraduate education, increasing completion rates, and ensuring that college education is affordable.

Commission and Academy staff connected with influential audiences through conference presentations, board meetings, and briefings. For example:

  • Members of the Commission and Academy staff briefed federal policymakers in over 40 meetings with members of Congress or their staff and the U.S. Department of Education; testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; and presentations to federal advisory groups including the National Science Board and the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee to the Directorate for Education and Human Resources.
  • Commissioners connected with state policymakers and academic leaders in state-focused meetings in Kentucky, Wisconsin and Washington State.
  • The Commission’s work was presented to funding organizations including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Fish Family Foundation.
  • Members of the Commission delivered keynotes and presentations at nine national and regional conferences for higher education leaders.
  • And the Commission has participated in interviews and correspondence with media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, WGBH, WAMU, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed and The New York Times.

Learn more about the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education's influence:

Outreach Activities

Media Coverage