On Sunday, the IHEP community lost a talented scholar, trusted advisor, and dear friend.
Dr. Thomas R. Wolanin served as a senior associate at IHEP from 1996 to 2016, where he drew from decades of federal service to produce thoughtful research and policy recommendations that advanced college access, affordability, and success for our nation's most underserved students.
“Tom was deeply committed to exploring the nexus between college access inequities, affordability challenges, and federal policy development," said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation and former IHEP president. "He channeled his experiences in federal policymaking settings to construct targeted recommendations that help our most vulnerable students access and succeed in higher education."
As a senior associate at IHEP, Dr. Wolanin’s portfolio was expansive and included developing strategies to increase college-going among foster youth, removing obstacles to college access for students with disabilities, and providing insights on legislative opportunities to address barriers to college access and persistence for all students.
"As one of the original architects of the federal Pell Grant program, Tom was a true champion for college access and affordability for our nation’s students," said IHEP President Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D. "The IHEP community was enriched by Tom's unparalleled understanding of the federal policymaking landscape and inspired by his example."
Dr. Wolanin's federal service included a long tenure with the U.S. House of Representatives as Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education where he led the subcommittee’s efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in 1980, 1986, and 1992. He also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education where he worked to enact the Federal Direct Loan Program, GOALS 2000: Educate America Act, and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act.
In 2000, Dr. Wolanin was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley as a member of the bipartisan Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance which provided the Secretary and Congress with recommendations to improve access to postsecondary education for low- and middle-income students. Dr. Wolanin’s expertise was featured recently in Looking Back to Move Forward, a film series documenting the policy and political origins of federal financial aid programs.
“The IHEP community will honor Tom's memory through our ongoing commitment to promoting equality of opportunity for all and challenging the postsecondary community to do more to meet the needs of underserved students,” said IHEP Board of Directors Chair Rob Anderson.