New Perch for Outspoken Education Researcher

Clifford Adelman, key Education Department analyst, to play same role for higher education think tank.
August 17, 2006

For more than 25 years, Clifford Adelman has been a widely respected and often outspoken researcher at the U.S. Education Department. Starting October 1, he'll continue to be a higher education researcher, but from a perch that will allow him to be, in all likelihood, even more outspoken.

Adelman will take his analytical work -- much of which has focused on the opportunity for not merely access to but also success in higher education for students of all types, including adult and other nontraditional ones -- to the Institute for Higher Education Policy. He said he would be working about half time there, with the rest dedicated to speaking to and consulting for college officials.

“Cliff is one of the nation’s most respected education researchers and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise," said Jamie P. Merisotis, the institute's president. "With a comprehensive knowledge of higher education issues, he’s a veteran of managing information and data that will be essential to helping to achieve the Institute’s goal of improving both equity and quality in higher education around the world.”

Adelman has written widely about an enormous range of subjects, from early work that contributed to the Nation at Risk report and a followup, "Involvement in Learning," that jumpstarted the assessment movement in higher education. More recently, he has specialized in looking at the twisting path -- which he describes as "swirling" -- that many students take through higher education today, emphasizing the increasingly central role that community colleges play in that process. His most recent publication is "The Toolbox Revisited."

The researcher, who has a reputation for calling them like he sees them, has at times bristled within the confines of the Education Department, when his analysis didn't thoroughly mesh with the views of the political leaders who run the department. But in an interview Wednesday, he said he greatly appreciated the platform the department has given him, applauded the department's statistical data that forms the basis for his work, and praised past officials of all political stripes, including Chester Finn, who "understood the value of this kind of leadership for the department."

"I'm at the time of life where I was asking, 'How many years do I have left to fight the good fight? Eight or 10?' " said Adelman, who said he defined the "good fight" as pushing for "high-quality distribution of high-quality knowledge," and ensuring that "the student as a learning person is at the center of everything."

"I can continue to do it from the department, or should I do it out there actually working with the people and the students?" Adelman said. The answer, he said, was clear.


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