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The Education Department has named Michelle Asha Cooper, a respected longtime champion for education equity, to a top role helping shape the Biden administration’s higher education policies.

Cooper, who was most recently president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, was listed on the department’s website Tuesday night as acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education. A department spokesman was unavailable for comment.

Cooper comes to the department after heading IHEP since 2008, but she has prior experience working in the federal government as deputy director of the Education Department’s Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. She was also a program associate at the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Office of Diversity, Equity and Global Initiatives from 2001 to 2004 and also worked at the Council for Independent Colleges. 

Cooper participated in an Inside Higher Ed podcast in July during which she stressed the importance of dealing with equity, particularly as students struggle during the pandemic.

“This is a really important moment for all of us,” she said on the podcast. "While we do not yet know the full impact of COVID-19, we know that it is having a tremendous impact on higher education and it is also having a tremendous impact on the students who faced tremendous needs prior to the pandemic, and also the institutions that serve them. I think this is a real moment to really double down our efforts on being equity-minded and serving these students and these institutions well.”