An Interview with Undersecretary of Education Martha J. Kanter

Techniques, October 2012 | Go to article overview

An Interview with Undersecretary of Education Martha J. Kanter


Martha J. Kanter oversees policies, programs and activities related to postsecondary education and adult CTE, among other areas. She is charged with planning and policy responsibilities to implement President Obama's goal for the U.S. to have "the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world by 2020."

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ACTE: What do you believe are the most critical policy issues facing education, both near term and long term, and what are the implications for career and technical education (CTE) specifically?

MJK: The U.S. Department of Education is focused on increasing college access, affordability, quality and completion. A month after taking office, President Obama set a goal for our nation to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. Secretary Arne Duncan calls the college completion goal our "North Star." We believe that achieving i his goal is vital if our nation is to prosper in a global economy driven by knowledge and innovation.

Our Administration has worked with Congress to take a number of bold steps over the last three years to help more students succeed in college and in life. We've more than doubled funding for Pell grants and moved forward with a series of. reforms to the student loan system, including income-based repayment and public service loan forgiveness, to help students enter and complete their programs of study, earn their certificates and degrees, advance in their careers, contribute to their communities and repay their loans.

And we are working hard to help families make smart investments in higher education by making financial aid and college cost information more transparent, including developing and encouraging institutions to adopt a simple, standardized financial aid "shopping sheet" that makes it possible for students to easily compare offers and calculate their costs. In the months ahead, we will be producing a College Scorecard, again to help students and families compare schools in regard to net price, graduation rates, loan default rates and other indicators.

Funding for CTE is another critical investment to ensure that more Americans have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills and credentials to get good jobs and to provide our nation with the skilled workforce we need to secure our future economic and social prosperity. We are working to transform CTE and establish partnerships between industries and institutions to prepare students for high-demand careers. According to Georgetown University's Center for Education and the Economy, we know that more than 60 percent of jobs will require a postsecondary education between now and 2018.

Our Administration's proposal for a reauthorized Perkins Act will usher in a new era of rigorous, relevant and results-driven CTE shaped by four core principles--alignment, collaboration, accountability and innovation--to support the expansion of programs that dramatically increase the preparation and success of students in high school and from high school through community colleges. Our new strategy is outlined in "Investing in America's Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education," which is available on the U.S. Department of Education's website.

ACTE: To a great degree, the education, workforce and employer systems remain in separate silos. How do we improve collaboration, alignment and linkages between these systems?

MJK: By breaking down the silos! That's why we are working to build deeper linkages between employers who need skilled workers and the education and job-training providers that equip students to meet the needs of business and industry. One example is our Administration's $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training grants, which require that each community college grantee work with at least one employer to make sure the programs created meet real labor-market needs. …

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