Robert M. Shireman is the deputy under secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. The office of the under secretary oversees the agency's efforts to help Americans pay for college; to promote innovation and improvement in adult, career-technical and higher education; and to support student preparation and planning for education and training beyond high school. Shireman has played a leading role in the Obama Administration's efforts to simplify the federal financial aid application process, to strengthen program integrity and consumer protection, to develop strategies to increase college completion, and to improve the reliability and reach of federal grants, loans and other college aid.
Shireman is not new to federal service. In the 1990s he worked for President Clinton for two years and before that for U.S. Senator Paul Simon (Illinois) for seven years. At the White House National Economic Council, Shireman led the effort to create the GEAR UP college preparation program, and he coordinated the America Reads campaign. In addition, he developed and successfully pursued a half-billion dollar Federal investment plan to address the education needs of Hispanic families; coordinated interagency efforts to implement the new HOPE Scholarship and Lifetime Learning tax credits; and designed and promoted a plan for federal assistance for K-12 school construction and renovation.
Immediately before joining the Department of Education in February, 2009, Shireman was president of a California-based nonprofit, the Institute for College Access and Success, which he built from the ground up, raising funds and building a professional staff. His organization's leadership brought public attention to the issue of rising student debt, prompting Congress to adopt income-based repayment for federal loans. Other projects included efforts to reduce waste in the federal student loan program; improve the effectiveness of financial aid at California community colleges; assist colleges in their efforts to support pluralism and diversity on campus; enhance accountability through better use of higher education data; and improve financial aid application processes.
Before founding the Institute, Shireman was a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute, where he convened national leaders of high school reform efforts and experts in higher education access for policy strategy discussions; facilitated state-level strategy sessions of education and business leaders; and helped manage a national coalition of 34 education organizations (Pathways to College Network), co-authoring the Shared Agenda action plan and developing the College Access Marketing toolkit.
Prior to Aspen, Shireman served as the program director for higher education at the James Irvine Foundation, managing a portfolio of new grants totaling up to $15 million annually. Shireman led a team of staff and consultants working with private colleges to assess their needs in terms of improving campus diversity, tailoring support to those needs and encouraging the use of data and evaluation to promote effective implementation of revised strategies. Shireman also developed new lines of support focused on college access and California public policy, leading to the creation of Education Trust-West, and to an unprecedented summit of 50 California college presidents on the topic of teacher preparation.
Shireman earned a Bachelor's degree in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and masters degrees from the University of San Francisco (in public administration) and the Harvard Graduate School of Education (in education).
Shireman lives in Washington, D.C. In August, his wife and three children came from California to join him for the 2009-10 academic year.