UMD Alumna Michelle Asha Cooper Appointed to Prominent Education Role in Biden-Harris Administration

Michelle Asha Cooper

A University of Maryland alumna was appointed to a key education leadership role in the Biden-Harris administration. Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper (Ph.D. ’06), who completed her doctorate in Education Policy and Leadership, is the new deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs—serving as acting assistant secretary—at the U.S. Department of Education.  

Dr. Cooper has served as the president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) since 2008 and is widely known for her leadership on equity in education. 

“Her University of Maryland family is beaming with pride over her role,” said Distinguished Scholar Teacher Sharon Fries-Britt, who served on her dissertation committee at Maryland. “Dr. Cooper exemplifies how our graduates’ work in the field can make a difference.”

Dr. Cooper’s dissertation, Dreams Deferred? - Exploring the Relationship Between Early and Later Postsecondary Educational Aspirations Among Racial/Ethnic Groups, foreshadowed a career dedicated to improving access to and equity in higher education. She examined students’ educational aspirations, focusing on the factors that predict stability and whether they differ by students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds. She will oversee day-to-day higher education operations at the U.S. Department of Education, and will likely play a significant role in policy, according to Inside Higher Ed

“Dr. Cooper’s leadership in advancing greater access and success for all students in higher education, as well as her understanding of policy and practice, signal great promise for addressing equity and inclusion issues in higher education during this administration,” said UMD College of Education Dean Jennifer King Rice. 

IHEP referred to Dr. Cooper as “a fierce advocate for racial and economic equity, experienced practitioner, and demonstrated leader.” 

“She is one of the nation's most trusted voices in championing success for students in higher education regardless of race, socioeconomic background, or gender,” IHEP Interim President Mamie Voight said in a statement

Prior to helming IHEP, Dr. Cooper held leadership positions at the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance at the U.S. Department of Education, Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Council for Independent Colleges, and King's College.