Advancing the public purposes of higher education is both more important – and more difficult – than ever before. AHEAD contributes to this outcome by helping policymakers, college and university administrators, and researchers understand the need to advance the public purposes of higher education and the best ways to achieve this goal. AHEAD leads the conversation by convening key stakeholders to engage in critical but difficult conversations about these issues, with the goal of identifying and disseminating information about innovative and productive solutions.

What's AHEAD: Key Trends in Higher Education

Visit the What's AHEAD page.

In the News

Visit the Press Coverage page.

Convenings & Roundtables

Optimal Policy for Secondary Education in Developing Countries
Wednesday, May 6, 2015, 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Univeristy of Pennsylvania, Penn AHEAD

Penn AHEAD Visiting Scholar Dr. Yergali Dosmagambet presented on how an accelerated increase in educational attainments in many East Asian countries derives from a dramatic augmentation of working population with vocational relative to general education. Dr. Dosmagambet's research explores an analytical approach to open up fresh insights into the composition of secondary education and proves the existence of an optimal trajectory that ensures a highest expansion rate of secondary education at an early stage of development.

Class Warfare: Driving Towards College Admissions in Top-Tier U.S. Secondary Schools
Monday, April 27, 2015
Univeristy of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education

Dr. Lois Weis, State University of New York Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Education at the University of Buffalo, spoke at PennAHEAD on April 27, 2015 on her 2014 book "Class Warfare: Class, Race, and College Admissions in U.S. Top-Tier Secondary Schools." The event was co-hosted by the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD) and the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education. To view an excerpt of Dr. Weis' presentation, please click here.

Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series
Monday, March 30, 2015
Univeristy of Buffalo, Graduate School of Education

PennAHEAD Executive Director Dr. Laura Perna spoke at the University of Buffalo Graduate School of Education on March 30, 2015 as part of the Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series. Dr. Perna's presentation focused on promoting college access and completion and the role of public policy and institutional practice. To view an excerpt of Dr. Perna's presentation, please click here

Educational Equity in Higher Education: A National Imperative
Tuesday, February 3, 2015, 9:00am-10:30am
National Press Club, Washington, DC

At this event, The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and AHEAD lead a shared dialogue about findings from their new report: Indicators of Higher Education in Equity in the United States: 45-Year Report.


  • Margaret Cahalan, Ph.D., Director of the Pell Institute & Vice President for Research, Council for Opportunity in Education
  • Laura W. Perna, Ph.D., Executive Director of AHEAD


Race, Poverty, and Change In America: The Persistent Dilemmas of Equity And Equality
Thursday, December 4, 2014 - Friday, December 5, 2014 
University of Pennsylvania Law School

Sponsored by Penn GSE, the Carter Chair in Child Development and Education, and the Center for Africana Studies, and co-sponsored with the Annenberg School for Communication, Penn Institute for Urban Research, Penn Law School, School of Arts and Sciences, School of Social Policy and Practice, the Wharton Sports Business Initiative-Wharton School, the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy, Center for Minority-Serving Institutions, Center for the Study of Race & Equity in Education, Penn Child Center and the National Center on Fathers and Families, and Philadelphia Writing Project. Featuring Dr. Laura Perna and Dr. Matt Hartley (Moderator).

Will Reauthorization Save The Higher Education Act?
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Washington, D.C.  

 A High-Level Panel Sponsored by Penn Law & New America

Featuring Dr. Laura Perna, Penn AHEAD 


Lectures & Seminars

Experiences in Kazakhstan: Through the eyes of Dr. Hartley"
Dr. Matthew Hartley
Tuesday, October 21st
10:00 am – 11:50 am 
GSE Building, Room 203

"China's Rising Research Universities: A New Era of Global Ambition" 
Professor Robert A. Rhoads 
University of California Los Angeles
Tuesday September 23, 2014
11:00 am - 12:30 pm
HED Conference room, 3819 Chestnut Street

Live video recording of event

The Attainment Agenda: State Policy Leadership in Higher Education
Professor Laura Perna (GSE), Professor Joni Finney (GSE), Professor Wendell Pritchett (Law), Professor Laura Wolf-Powers (Design)
University of Pennsylvania
Wharton Public Policy Initiative
Wednesday, September 27, 2014 
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Jon M. Hunstman Hall, Room 340
Live video recording of event

Penn AHEAD Director Testifies Before Congress

Dr. Laura Perna testified in front of the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training on April 30, 2015 on efforts to improve higher education access and completion for low-income and first-generation students. Dr. Perna's testimony specifically focused on the role of college access and success programsClick here to view the press release and click here to watch Dr. Perna's testimony. 

Last summer, Dr. Perna testified in front of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on states' role in higher education. Click here to view the video of her testimony.