Pioneer Institute Awards Gala to Highlight Proposals to Address Student Debt Crisis & Promote Job Training

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Speakers Include John Sexton, NYU President Emeritus; Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker

Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or

BOSTON – Programs that help address the student debt crisis and America’s growing skills mismatch will be highlighted at Pioneer Institute’s 27th annual Better Government Competition Awards Gala on Monday, September 24th at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will provide opening remarks and John Sexton, President Emeritus of New York University, will deliver the keynote.

Dr. Sexton led New York University for over a decade, retiring in 2015. He is the Benjamin F. Butler Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus of the NYU School of Law. He received the TIAA-CREF Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence for his extraordinary achievements as NYU’s President, and the Institute of International Education’s Duggan Award for Mutual Understanding.

Governor Baker’s administration has awarded nearly $50 million in Skills Capital Grants to over 150 programs that help educational institutions invest in training equipment so students can prepare for careers in construction, engineering, healthcare, hospitality and other industries.

“Today, student loan debt stands at $1.5 trillion, with one in eight Americans holding some form of that debt,” said Jim Stergios, Pioneer Institute Executive Director. “With average tuitions rising five times faster than inflation over the past 40 years, generations of middle-class and disadvantaged youth are being priced out of educational opportunities. Pioneer’s 2018 Better Government Competition identified programs that improve affordability and college completion, and broaden access to high-quality apprenticeships.”

Read the Compendium of Winning Entries here.

2018 Better Government Comp… by on Scribd

The 2018 Better Government Competition award winner, Purdue University’s Back a Boiler Fund, is a tuition payment alternative to federal or private loans for undergraduate students. Through an Income Share Agreement (ISA), alumni investors cover some of individual students’ tuition. Repayment is made upon employment as a share of the graduate’s income over a predetermined time period. The program is attracting the attention of other universities as a viable approach to reducing student debt. The Purdue Research Foundation’s Mary-Claire Cartwright and Cynthia Sequin will accept the $10,000 top prize, which will be donated to the Back a Boiler ISA Fund.

The competition received over 80 entries from think tanks, universities, job training programs, nonprofits, and state government agencies across the nation. In addition to the winner, four runners up and four special recognition recipients will be honored at the event.

The runners up, described below, will each receive $1,000.

Colleen J. Quint, President & CEO, Alfond Scholarship Foundation: A program investing $500, intended for future postsecondary education costs, in every child born in Maine.

Dr. Robert I. Lerman, Institute Fellow, Urban Institute: A detailed outline of steps Massachusetts organizations can take to increase apprenticeship opportunities to address youth unemployment and the skills gap.

Stacey Hughes, Chairperson, Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education-Kentucky: An education model that trains students in three career pathway options – technician, engineer, and business leader – preparing them for employment upon completion of the program.

Karen P. Morgan, Director, Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards: An extension of an existing apprenticeship program that introduces high school juniors and seniors to job opportunities for high school credit.

The 2018 winners were selected by a distinguished panel of judges with backgrounds in education, government, business, and workforce development:

  • L. (Peter) Alcock, Former Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee; Pine Manor College Board of Trustees
  • Brian C. Broderick, Partner, Hemenway & Barnes, LLP; Senior Vice President, Hemenway Trust Company; Trustee, Wellesley College; and Board of Directors, Pioneer Institute
  • Charles D. Chieppo, Principal, Chieppo Strategies, LLC; Senior Fellow, Governing and Pioneer Institute
  • Stefano Falconi, Managing Director & Higher Education Practice Leader, Berkeley Research Group, LLC
  • Bob LePage, Assistant Secretary of Career Education in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education; former Vice President of Foundation and Workforce Training for Springfield Technical Community College; and former Executive Vice President of Career Pathways

Four special recognition awardees will also be acknowledged at the gala:

Dr. Adrienne Y. Smith, Dean of the School of Engineering Technologies and Mathematics: An affordable and flexible bachelor’s degree program that combines technical training from STCC with professional studies courses from Northeastern University.

Krishna Rajagopal, Dean for Digital Learning and Professor of Physics and Tracy Tan, Director, MicroMasters: Master’s level online classes taught by MIT professors, offering credentials toward career development or as a foundation for an accelerated master’s program at MIT.

Liz Marino, Chief of Growth and Strategy, Duet: A personalized advising program that supplements SNHU’s online and project-based courses offering students one-on-one academic and career coaching.

Andrew Sears, President, City Vision University: An affordable educational option that offers degrees in Addiction Studies, Non-profit Management, Business, and Urban Missions for low-income individuals who want to help their own impoverished communities.

At the Better Government Competition Awards Gala, a compendium of winning entries will be distributed to attendees; Pioneer will also send it to policy makers and opinion leaders in Massachusetts and across the country.

Pioneer Institute’s Better Government Competition, founded in 1991, is an annual citizens’ ideas contest that rewards some of the nation’s most innovative public policy proposals. The Better Government Competition Awards Gala attracts hundreds of leaders in business, government, and the non-profit sector. Past speakers have included: The Right Honorable James D. Bolger, New Zealand Ambassador; John Stossel, former ABC News correspondent; U.S. Senator Alan Simpson; Massachusetts Governors Mitt Romney, William Weld, Paul Cellucci, Deval Patrick, and Charlie Baker; David Gergen, advisor to four presidents; Michelle Rhee, head of StudentsFirst; U.S. Senator Scott Brown; financial publisher Steve Forbes; Boston Mayor Martin Walsh; former Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis; Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy; and Joseph F. Coughlin, Founder and Director of the MIT AgeLab.

Watch videos of our winner and runners up.


Runners Up:


Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.