Former Under Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
Martha Kanter leads the College Promise Campaigns, a national initiative to increase college access, affordability and completion in American higher education, starting with America’s community colleges. She is also a Senior Fellow at New York University’s Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy, specializing in policy efforts to identify evidence-based education interventions, financing models and behavioral incentives at the local, state and national levels to raise America’s high school and college graduation rates in two and four-year colleges and universities. Her academic interests include: The Confluence of Access, Equity and Excellence; The Intersection of Policy and Politics in American Higher Education; and The Contributions of America’s Community Colleges to the Nation’s Social Fabric, Civic Future and Economy.
In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Kanter to serve as the U.S. Under Secretary of Education, with oversight responsibility for all federal postsecondary statutory, regulatory and administrative policies and programs for the U.S. Department of Education, including the $175B annual federal student aid programs, higher education, adult education, career-technical education, international education and 6 White House Initiatives. From 2009-2013, Dr. Kanter and her team took bold steps to increase college access, affordability, quality and completion to implement President Obama’s goal to have the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world by 2020. She oversaw the successful implementation of the Direct Student Loan program that resulted in a 50-percent increase in college enrollment, growing from 6 to more than 9 million students today who are Pell Grant recipients. Previously, Dr. Kanter served as President of De Anza College and then Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District for sixteen years. She began her career as an alternative high school teacher and began teaching at San Jose City College in 1977. From there, she became a community college dean, vice president, and vice chancellor for policy and research of the California Community Colleges. She holds a B.A. degree in Sociology from Brandeis University, a M.Ed. from Harvard University and an Ed.D. from the University of San Francisco.
Dr. Kanter serves as a trustee on the non-profit boards of ETS, the Woodrow Wilson Scholarship Foundation, Prosperity Now, Excelencia in Education, the Scholar Rescue Committee, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, California State Dominquez Hills Foundation, and the American College of Greece.