Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” where
IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about their industry and the habits that lead
Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation for Education, knows firsthand the sacrifices
and hard work necessary for some working-class families to send their children to college. His mother went back to work to
help send Merisotis and his three siblings to school. Attending Bates College in Maine, Merisotis cobbled together a mix of
grants, scholarships, student loans and part-time jobs (including delivering newspapers at 4 a.m.) to finance his education.
"It wasn't easy," said Merisotis, 46. "And the challenge for paying for college has gotten worse instead
The goal of Lumina Foundation is to increase the percentage of Americans receiving high-quality degrees and credentials from
40 percent to 60 percent in the next 15 years. Rather than give money directly to students, the foundation uses proceeds from
its $1.1 billion endowment to help fund education programs that further its goal, to encourage effective public policy, and
to build public support for change. In the video below, Merisotis describes how an early work experience
ignited his passion for helping more students enroll and graduate from college, and provides advice for keeping students engaged
once they arrive on campus.
Like those of many private foundations, Lumina's endowment took a major hit during the recession, dropping from a recent
high of $1.4 billion to as low as $900 million. Despite the decrease and subsequent cost-cutting measures, Lumina avoided
laying off any of its 40-some staff members. In the video below, Merisotis describes why maintaining human
capital was the group's top priority.