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To address the need for new creative solutions to higher education funding, the University of Virginia’s Miller Center has announced the formation of a nonpartisan National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education.

With support from the Lumina Foundation, the group will commission outside, nonpartisan research and use their findings to identify practical and innovation recommendations that will help state and federal governments expand access to affordable, high-quality postsecondary credentials.

The policy proposals they come up with to provide long-term, sustainable finance models for U.S. higher education are expected to help the nation meet educational attainment goals. The group will look into how public and private dollars can lead to fair educational outcomes for students. Given that the lofty cost of higher education is making college attainable for only those with the bank account to foot the tuition bill, new ideas for higher education finance models could make post-secondary degrees more accessible for all.

The 14-member commission conducted their first meeting on March 31 in D.C. where they were tasked to determine policy and technical analyses necessary to help the panel make recommendations. Once complete, it’s expected that their report recommendations will outline finance models that are best fit to the fiscal climate and can increase attainment for students, no matter their financial situation.

“Thomas Jefferson — the first American president to found a university — felt that individuals ‘endowed with genius and virtue’ should receive an education ‘without regard for wealth, birth, or other accidental condition or circumstance.’ Jefferson’s mission has come to a major obstacle,” said William Antholis, director and CEO of the Miller Center, in a statement. “State support for public higher ed and federal support for student aid both face real limits, so many deserving students are finding it harder to pursue their own educational journeys without running out of financial resources. The commission aims to do something about that.”

The commission is made up of a vast network of college and university presidents, former governors and other state leaders who understand how the budget process works. Members include:

  • Andrea Ayers, president and CEO of Convergys
  • Bernadette Gray-Little, chancellor of the University of Kansas
  • Bob Graham, former governor of Florida and U.S. Senator (Co-Chair)
  • Carl Camden, president and CEO of Kelly Services, Inc.
  • David Nelms, chairman and CEO of Discover Financial
  • Edward B. Rust. Jr., chairman and CEO of State Farm Insurance Companies
  • Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College
  • Jorge Benitez, retired CEO and United States and senior managing director of North America for Accenture
  • Juliet V. García, executive director of The University of Texas Americas Institute and formerly president of the University of Texas at Brownsville
  • Lou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State University
  • Luke Kenley, Indiana State Sen. and chairman of the Appropriations Committee
  • Mike Castle, former governor of Delaware and U.S. Congressman (Co-Chair)
  • Mildred García, president of California State University, Fullerton
  • Richard S. Madaleno Jr., Maryland State Sen. and vice chair of the Budget and Tax Committee