Not Meeting Tom Mortenson in Oskaloosa

June 19, 2010

I had hoped to meet Tom Mortenson when I came to Oskaloosa.  I’ve wanted to meet him — to thank him — for a long while, but I don’t often come to Oskaloosa, and that is where he lives. Unfortunately, he when I contacted him he let me know he would be in Sweden making a presentation at a conference.

Tom is the editor and publisher of Postsecondary Education Opportunity, a monthly newsletter and affiliated website that focuses on access to higher education, and on the ways public policy fosters or impedes access to that opportunity.  He has special concern for populations that are under-represented in higher education.

Month after month, Tom Mortenson mines state, federal and international data sources to show what’s happening with access: overall, by gender, by race, by state, by age, by income.  Mostly it’s a monthly bath of cold water.  He shows that access to higher education is no longer rising in the United States.  He shows that access is much better among those in the top income quintile, and lower by steps in each successively poorer quintile.  He shows that we are no longer first in the world in this regard, and that country after country is passing us by.  And he shows that as U.S. birth cohorts grow increasingly non-white, and that as children are increasingly concentrated among lower income quintiles, that we can expect that access will begin to decline.

None of this is surprising — or at least it isn’t if you have been paying attention.  But many of us have not been paying attention.  Tom Mortenson’s newsletter is the perfect lens to focus attention.

Tom’s bio on his website notes that “he is particularly interested in public and
private finance of higher education opportunity and the enrollment
consequences of the cost-shift from taxpayers to students that has been underway
since 1980.”  Indeed.

You can find the website — and subscribe! — at If you care about access to higher education, and you should, you’ll want to subscribe.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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