Robert Shireman

Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation; founder, California Competes

“The Opportunity Institute is poised to make a significant difference for individuals and families, with two factors that give it a strategic advantage. First is the mix of on-the-ground connections to the schools and communities where progress is most needed, with an experienced eye to policy-change opportunities—which sometimes emerge unexpectedly. Second, the work of the Institute runs the full scope from earliest childhood development to higher education and workforce preparation, inviting approaches that cut across issues and break the cycle of poverty and inequality. I’m excited about the Institute’s potential to have a real impact on individuals in California and throughout the nation.”
—Robert Shireman

Robert Shireman is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation working on education policy with a focus on for-profit college accountability, quality assurance, and consumer protections. He served in the Clinton White House as a Senior Policy Advisor to the National Economic Council and later for the Obama Administration as deputy undersecretary in the Department of Education.

Since his first education policy job in 1989, Shireman has played key roles in a wide variety of higher education finance, access, quality, and governance issues. He shepherded the evolution of the nation’s income-based student loan repayment system from its initial adoption in 1992 to its expansion and improvement by President Barack Obama. He organized the federal response to emerging signs of predatory for-profit career training in 2009, leading to a widely discussed set of regulatory reforms and enforcement actions. Shireman’s analysis of local needs in California prompted changes in the funding formula for that state’s community colleges and he worked to improve the ethnic and economic diversity of California’s private colleges. He led an effort that significantly simplified the process of applying for federal college aid and pressed for and ultimately won the elimination of costly middlemen from the federal loan programs so that more grant aid could be made available to low-income students.

Working inside and outside of government, in California and in Washington, D.C., Shireman’s successes earned him Money magazine “money hero” status for his work on college affordability. For his battles with banks and other special interests, the public interest law firm Public Advocates honored him with a Voice of Conscience award. Currently, in addition to being a part of The Century Foundation’s education team, Shireman serves on the board of uAspire, a national non-profit that helps low-income students find quality, affordable college options.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley, a Master’s in Education from Harvard, and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco.