Our Work

What does the higher education system need to look like to serve far more students effectively?

A redesigned postsecondary system must be flexible, affordable, and relentlessly focused on quality. Put simply, it must be a student-centered system, one designed to meet the needs of students—all types of students—not just the needs or traditions of institutions. The ultimate goal is to build a learning-based system that offers broad, connected pathways to high-quality credentials for a vast and growing number of Americans—from all walks of life.

Student Financing

Lumina believes it is time to fundamentally rethink our national approach to student financing. Only through substantive redesign can we assure that tuition and financial aid resources are used to support the success of the much larger number of students needed to reach Goal 2025. This launch of the comprehensive policy papers is an early step in that redesign effort.

In 2013, Lumina Foundation developed and released a set of design principles to guide the Foundation’s work in this area. The principles were unveiled in a Huffington Post blog authored by Jamie Merisotis.

Tackling the Urgent National Challenge of College Affordability: Criteria for System Redesign

Instructional Processes

Instructional processes must begin and end with students ― with “learners and what they learn.” This idea—of shifting the focus away from an institution-centric construct and toward understanding and meeting the needs of students—is absolutely central. This concept must be the central driver in the effort to redesign higher education for the 21st century. Indeed, fundamental redesign is a must—because the traditional higher-ed model is simply insufficient to our needs as a society. That’s not a criticism of any institution, individual or mindset. The fact is, the current system lacks the capacity and the flexibility to properly serve the millions of additional students who must be served if we are to meet the nation’s attainment goals.

Clearly, we need a revamped system: One that puts students firmly at the center by building it around pathways based on learning … one that challenges everyone to be accountable for the success of students … all types of students, in greater numbers than ever before, especially those who have traditionally been underrepresented in higher education—low-income students, first-generation college attenders, minorities, and adults. We need a system that requires transparency and cooperative effort, one that encourages innovation by rewarding actual outcomes, not mere process or effort or good intentions.

We’re convinced that change—that fundamental redesign in higher education ― is a necessity. And we’re just as convinced that faculty must embrace that change, and lead it.

Read more about how faculty can lead the redesign process in a keynote speech by Jamie Merisotis at this year's National Assessment Conference:

Toward Learner-Centered Higher Education: Why Faculty-Led Assessment is the Key

More About Lumina Foundation

Our Mission and How to Get Involved

What You Can Do

Every American has a role in helping us reach Goal 2025, and we all benefit when we get there. Everyone–from employers to instructors to families–has clear steps to take. And no matter how small, each step toward the goal is essential. Find out how you can contribute to building a stronger nation through higher education.

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What Needs to be Redesigned

Lumina's priority is to fundamentally rethink how higher education is delivered, and what outcomes can be expected from postsecondary completion. Lumina Foundation is leading a national conversation about the disruptive innovations helping to design and build a 21st century system that meets the needs of all students.

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Facts & Figures

Read some key facts on how we can increase levels of educational attainment equitably, through the use of quality data to improve student performance, identify problems, measure progress toward the goal and inform policy and decision making at all levels.

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