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Lumina Foundation names Merisotis next President and CEO

Lumina Foundation for Education's board of directors today concluded a 10-month national search for the private foundation's next leader by naming Jamie P. Merisotis as president and chief executive officer, effective Jan. 1. Merisotis is founding president of the 14-year-old Institute for Higher Education Policy, a nonpartisan global research and policy center based in Washington, D.C.

"Jamie is a perfect fit for Lumina," said John M. Mutz, the Foundation board's chairman. "He is respected among those in the higher-ed community. His experiences testifying before lawmakers have positioned him to lead aggressive public policy initiatives at state and national levels. In a very high-profile way, Jamie will help Lumina advocate for a better-educated, civically engaged workforce to ensure individual opportunity—and our nation's prosperity—amid global competition."

Merisotis is a leading authority on college and university financing, federal student financial aid, private scholarships and student loans. Much of his nonprofit center's work is closely aligned with Lumina's mission of focusing on vastly improved access to higher education for low-income, minority and other historically underrepresented groups. While at the Institute for Higher Education Policy in 1999, Merisotis was instrumental in establishing the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, a coalition of national associations whose members represent more than 350 institutions primarily serving African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans. Merisotis frequently testifies before congressional panels and has written scholarly, policy and opinion pieces for The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications.

Merisotis also is a first-generation college graduate from a family of limited means. He paid for his college education with Pell Grants, student loans, church and community scholarships and other financial aid.

"My personal and professional experiences motivated me to take on the challenge of expanding access to—and success in—college for all students," Merisotis said. "Lumina Foundation's leadership in this area has been significant. No other philanthropic organization has made the same commitment to changing the way business is done in higher education. I look forward to the opportunity to guide the efforts of the Foundation's committed staff, many of whom I have worked alongside."

The United States spends more on higher education than many other developed countries but has been falling behind for more than a generation in degree-completion among those ages 25 to 34. To improve its standing, the country must educate millions more students, many of them from the historically underserved groups that will replace Baby Boomers in the workforce. Merisotis said Lumina can play a bigger role in formulating creative responses that policymakers, practitioners and other leaders can use to make high-quality college education affordable and available to all.

"We need to invest in ëblue-sky' policy thinking that gives leaders a chance to take a fresh look at seemingly intractable issues such as college affordability and the college success rates of students from low-income families," Merisotis said. "We need to face the stark reality of life in America today: Many students enter college lacking basic skills, facing financial pressures, subject to cultural and language barriers, with children and other family obligations and without adequate guidance or support. We need to support these students and acknowledge that many institutions can—and will—change to meet the needs of their students if they are given the proper incentives and the tools to make a difference."

Merisotis will succeed Martha D. Lamkin, Lumina's founding president and chief executive, who is retiring in December. Lamkin has served as executive vice president of the now-former USA Group in Indianapolis, executive director of corporate responsibility and government affairs at Cummins Co. and president of the heavy-duty engine manufacturer's foundation. After her departure from Lumina, Lamkin plans to continue her service on the board of the Council on Foundations, a membership organization serving more than 2,000 grant makers and giving organizations worldwide.

Lumina has assets totaling nearly $1.5 billion and has made more than $250 million in grants since its inception in August 2000 to promote student access and success in education beyond high school. In recent years, increasing portions of Lumina's resources have been devoted to the Foundation's three major initiatives: Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count; Making Opportunity Affordable: Reinvesting in College Access and Success; and the KnowHow2GO campaign. More information about these initiatives can be found on the Lumina Foundation Fact Sheet.

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