Dr. Arnold L. Mitchem, the founding president of the Council for Opportunity in Education, has been a voice for low-income, first-generation students, individuals with disabilities, adult learners, and veterans throughout his entire career. The mission of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) is to advance and defend the ideal of equal educational opportunity in postsecondary education. COE provides professional development, program improvement, and advocacy for over 2,800 federally funded college opportunity programs at more than 1,000 colleges and universities nationwide. Close to 790,000 students are served annually.
Dr. Mitchem’s knowledge of grassroots organizing and understanding of the political landscape at the local, national, and international level has propelled COE to become the “voice for college opportunity.” He introduced the concept of “first-generation students” through his Congressional testimony in the late 1970s — and the term was incorporated into the Education Amendments of 1980. Dr. Mitchem has testified before Congress more than a dozen times to share his expertise on education reform, the importance of a quality education, and student loan issues.
Dr. Mitchem is a member of the Executive Committee of the European Access Network and serves on the Board of Trustees of Marquette University. He is a former trustee of the College Board, past president of the Committee for Education Funding, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of national education associations, and served on INROADS, Inc.’s first national board. Dr. Mitchem was also the founding president of the Mid-America Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel (1974-1976) and the recipient of the Arturo Schomburg Distinguished Service Award from the Association for Equality and Excellence in Education, Inc. He is also the recipient of both the 2013 Award for Advocacy of Independent Higher Education from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Award of Excellence (2013).
Because of his tireless advocacy for underrepresented students, Dr. Mitchem was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and honorary doctorates from 10 universities: CUNY-Lehman College, DePaul University, University of Illinois, University of Liverpool, Marquette University, Marycrest College, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Lewis University in Chicago, St. Joseph University in Philadelphia, and St. Louis University. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Forbes.com, The Huffington Post, and numerous other print and online publications.
Dr. Mitchem began his career on the history faculty at Marquette University and was later named director of Marquette’s Educational Opportunity Program, serving in that role until 1986, when he moved to Washington, D.C. to assume the presidency of the Council for Opportunity in Education. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Colorado, did graduate work in European history as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, and earned a Ph.D. in foundations of education from Marquette University.