Innovations 2020 Monday Keynote Martha Kanter

General Session Keynote
Monday, March 2, 8:30 - 10:00 AM

Martha Kanter

Executive Director, College Promise Campaign

Keynote Address

Making and Keeping the College Promise for the 21st Century
The College Promise movement has experienced a groundswell of support in recent years, with a 250 percent increase in the number of local and state programs since the campaign launched in 2015. Today, more than 330 local communities in 47 states and 29 statewide Promise programs have dramatically increased College Promise opportunities for their residents, with an additional 257 local programs in vetting. America’s community colleges have assumed a leadership position in this effort to deliver the promise of dramatically increasing college affordability and support for U.S. students. While a Promise can be made, keeping the promise depends on design, innovation, and commitment to achieve sustainable, evidence-based results in access, completion, transfer, and workforce success. This keynote address will capture the Promise vision to empower youth and adults to reach their potential, eliminate barriers to opportunity, and build successful pathways to and through the middle class in the 21st century.


Dr. Martha Kanter leads the College Promise Campaign, a national nonpartisan initiative to increase college access, affordability, quality, and completion. To expand the social, economic, and civic mobility of Americans, the Campaign supports College Promise programs in more than 331 communities across 47 states and in 29 entire states since its launch in September 2015. Kanter specializes in policy efforts to identify and apply evidence-based education interventions, financing models, and behavioral incentives to raise America’s high school and college graduation rates. She also serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at New York University’s Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy.

From 2009-2013, Kanter served President Obama as the U.S. Under Secretary of Education, overseeing all federal postsecondary statutory, regulatory, and administrative policies and programs for the U.S. Department of Education. She led the successful implementation of the Direct Student Loan program, resulting in a 50 percent increase in college enrollment for low-income Pell grant recipients from 6 million to more than 9 million students.

From 1993-2009, Kanter served as President of De Anza College and then Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in Silicon Valley, California. She holds a B.A. in sociology from Brandeis University, an M.Ed. from Harvard University, and an Ed.D. from the University of San Francisco. Her education career began in the 9th grade teaching reading at the South End House in Boston followed by teaching economically disadvantaged high school students in a church basement.

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