Arne Duncan Addresses Diversity on Campus in Final Days in Office

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In one of his final dispatches, outgoing U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined what needs to be done to improve faculty diversity in higher education.

In a column for Medium, Secretary Duncan said universities should do more to encourage close-knit relationships between faculty and students, bolster STEM offerings for minority students, and create alternative pathways to tenure and promotion. Greater faculty diversity, he argued, would go a long way toward ensuring people with different racial and cultural backgrounds feel welcomed in higher education.

“One of the most common-sense recommendations — and one which I strongly support — is that schools should have a teaching staff that reflects the diverse make-up of our country,” he wrote.

After nearly seven years as President Obama’s top education official, Secretary Duncan will step down at the end of the year. He said addressing an issue as complex as diversity in higher education cannot be solved overnight, adding that a systematic step is to expand the pool of graduate students preparing to join faculty ranks.

John King, who’s replacing Duncan next month, is outlining some of his own higher education policy priorities. In an interview with Politico, King said college completion is the next frontier in ensuring students are in a position to succeed in their postsecondary education.

“We’ve made a lot of progress around access and affordability,” King said. “When you look at the student debt crisis, the typical student who defaults has debt, but not a degree. So what we want to try to do is support students towards completion.”

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