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Senate OKs Nomination of Top Higher Education Official

May 9, 2014

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed President Obama’s choice for the Education Department’s top official overseeing higher education. 

By a voice vote, lawmakers approved the nomination of Theodore R. Mitchell as under secretary of education. Mitchell, who most recently led a “venture philanthropy” fund focused on K-12 education, assumes the post previously occupied by Martha J. Kanter, who left the department last year to join the faculty of New York University. The role has been filled on an interim basis by Jamienne S. Studley, the deputy under secretary of education.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement that Mitchell’s experience as a college president and administrator “as well as his unwavering commitment to equity for every student, makes him uniquely suited for this role.” Mitchell previously served as president of Occidental College and was an administrator at the University of California at Los Angeles.

“He will lead us through this important time in higher education as we continue to work toward the President’s goal to produce the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world by 2020,” Duncan said.

Mitchell will also help lead an Education Department that is developing a controversial new system to rate colleges and pursuing an ambitious regulatory agenda focused on “gainful employment,” teacher preparation programs, state authorization of online programs, and campus debit cards. His tenure will also likely feature debate with Congress over how to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, which expires at the end of this year.

With Mitchell’s nomination Thursday, there is one key higher education post at the department that remains vacant. The Senate education committee earlier this year advanced the nomination of Ericka M. Miller as assistant secretary for postsecondary education, but the full Senate has not yet acted on it. 

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Michael Stratford

Michael Stratford, Reporter, covers federal policy for Inside Higher Ed. He joined the publication in August 2013 after a stint covering the Arkansas state legislature for The Associated Press. He previously worked and interned at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and The Chronicle of Higher Education. At The Chronicle, he wrote about federal policy and covered higher education issues in the 2012 elections. Michael grew up in Belmont, Mass. and graduated from Cornell University, where he was managing editor of The Cornell Daily Sun.

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