Ask Me Anything: Jamie Merisotis

Higher-ed expert thinks America needs talent.

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.