Impact Stories
March 9, 2021 – Future of Work

Building a brighter future for all learners

We ask leaders in postsecondary education for one big idea that could make a positive difference in the lives of learners.

Building a brighter future for all learners

Mid-March marks a somber anniversary: The disruption of learning worldwide from the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Charles Koch Foundation, we’re still in awe of educators’ rapid adaptations to empower students over the past 12 months. Looking back, there are plenty of bright spots shining in the dark: resilient faculty creating tools for effective teaching, innovative leadership networks sharing new ideas and best practices, new coalitions getting Americans back to work, and more.

The question we all face now is where to go next. The pandemic exposed familiar gaps in our education ecosystem. Too many students drop out of postsecondary education with little to show for it other than unmanageable debt. Too many graduates find their classroom experience disconnected from their career goals. Limited pathways consign talented people to underemployment, leaving their full potential untapped.

We have a choice: pursue innovative solutions, or return to a status quo that we know limits human potential.

We choose innovation. This means standing together with partners who will thoughtfully identify problems, propose solutions, and bring quality educational options that benefit all learners.

To mark this moment, we asked several leaders in postsecondary education for one idea they think could make a difference in the lives of learners. As each innovator responds, we will post their contribution in “Impact Stories,” as well as link to their idea below. I hope you enjoy the discussion and are inspired to take action.

Together, we can look forward to a bright future where all learners are empowered to push the boundaries of their potential.


With high regards,

Ryan Stowers
Executive Director, Charles Koch Foundation


“Build faster, cheaper pathways to good jobs” by Ryan Craig and Ayesha Khan, Achieve Partners

“Value and teach practical knowledge” by Ben Nelson, Minerva

“Allow students to build their education one brick at a time (and encourage them along the way)” by Bradley Hooser, PelotonU

“Make it easy for students to transfer credit” by Cheryl Hyman, Arizona State University

“Make access the new arms race” by Brandon Busteed, Kaplan

“Separate knowledge from brand” by Michael D. Smith, Carnegie Mellon University

“Integrate learning and work with a job-embedded degree,” by Melinda Day, Reach University

“One university: Multiple products,” by Jeffrey Selingo

“Create micro-pathways that stack to degrees (and lead to good jobs),” by Kevin Stump, Education Design Lab

“Student success through quality instruction,” by Jonathan Gyurko, Association of College and University Educators

“Postsecondary education needs alternative financing models,” by Steven Taylor, Charles Koch Institute