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June 10, 2020

Hope for Higher Ed: An Interview with Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón

Eduardo J. Padrón, Honorary Chair of the College Promise National Advisory Board, spoke with Martha Kanter, CEO of College Promise, about the importance of higher education in economic development and COVID-19 recovery, the disparity between talent and opportunity, and the role of College Promise in furthering his own lifelong commitment to affordable higher education.

An economist by training and President Emeritus of Miami Dade College, Dr. Padrón served as president of Miami Dade College from 1995 to 2019. He serves on the boards of Council on Foreign Relations; Urban Institute; Spencer Foundation, among many others and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. He joins Honorary Vice Chair Gov. Geringer in leading the distinguished members of the College Promise National Advisory Board in working to fulfill the College Promise mission to make higher education as universal, free, and accessible as high school.

College Promise is committed to making college as universal, free, and inclusive as high school has been for more than a century. We  want to increase student opportunity and success at all levels for a better educated, workforce-prepared, more prosperous nation. You’ve spent your career devoted to this goal. Are we making progress? What are your goals for College Promise during your term as Honorary Chair?

I feel very strongly that a post-secondary education must be a universal right for every American. In the 21st Century knowledge economy, this is an imperative if the United States is to keep its leadership position in the world. Two-thirds of all new jobs being created in our nation today require post-secondary knowledge and skills. Those who fail to attain higher levels of proficiency beyond high school are being relegated to low paying jobs without hope to achieve the American Dream. This is why the College Promise aims to ensure that every American be given the opportunity to attain a post-secondary credential.

If we fail to make a college education accessible and attainable for all hardworking students, what is lost? Can America afford this?

We all know that talent is universal but opportunity is not. In America, we need to insist that every individual has the opportunity to harness his or her talents. It is crucial to make a college education accessible and attainable for all students. The economic condition of a person should not preclude the opportunity to learn and acquire the tools to climb the ladder of success. Our cities and country desperately need a well prepared workforce to be able to compete effectively in a globalized world. This can only be accomplished by ensuring everyone has the opportunity to access and succeed in college.

What gives you hope about the future of education?

I remain hopeful about the future of education. Policy makers must see it as an investment rather than as an expense. Increasingly, this new generation of students as well as their families, understand that only the educated are free. Free to be and free to choose. They have aspirations and a genuine desire to partake in the fruits of progress of this great nation of ours. It is incumbent upon us to make it happen. Let’s open the college doors wide-open with a constant reminder that opportunity changes everything.

What advice do you have for students, especially in this moment of incredible disruption?

It has been said that change is the only constant in today’s world. Change is happening at exponential speed. Artificial intelligence is disrupting every sector of the economy. Many traditional jobs are quickly disappearing while at the same time new jobs are emerging that require higher and more sophisticated skills. It’s estimated that presently there are over five million such jobs in the United States for which there are only a few qualified candidates. This presents a great opportunity for young people who are armed with the appropriate training and education to access high wage jobs. Higher education for all is the answer to the supply/demand challenge.

National Advisory Board News

College Promise is pleased to welcome Arnoldo Avalos, Constance Carroll, Kyle Lierman, and Zheng Yu Huang to the 2020 - 2021 National Advisory Board. We look forward to working together in support of the College Promise mission. Meet the Board.

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