Ask Me Anything: Jamie Merisotis

As president and CEO of the Indy-based Lumina Foundation, Merisotis leads a $1.3 billion nonprofit at the forefront of reforming higher education. We sat down with the wonk for a Socratic dialogue about his book, America Needs Talent, available now.


IM: According to the reality-TV show, America already has talent.
Talent is what made us great in the 20th century, the American Century. Circumstances have changed: global competition is greater; our immigration policy is a mess. For the better part of four decades, the national higher-ed attainment rate has been flat. If we want a second American Century, we have to invest in talent.

Do you advise the current presidential candidates on their higher-ed policies?

They’re private conversations, but we’re putting information in their hands, including the book.

How will college change a decade from now?

We hope we measure higher ed by learning, not time. The current model is based on credit hour.

And that’s bad?

We need a lot more clarity around what degrees mean in terms of learning.

Is a college degree still worth much?

It’s still your ticket to the middle class. Education changed my life—I feel a little lucky. I don’t think luck is a very good societal strategy.

This article appeared in our September 2015 issue.

Adam Wren writes about business, politics, and crime for Indianapolis Monthly—often in the same story.

Follow him on Twitter @adamwren or visit his website at adamwren.me.