Washington, D.C., May 18, 2005—Margarita Benitez has joined the Institute for Higher Education Policy as a Senior Associate. A widely-respected expert in higher education access, institutional development, accreditation, and student opportunity, Benitez will focus on project management and research related to domestic and international higher education concerns.
Benitez will immediately serve as Project Director of the BEAMS (Building Engagement and Attainment in Minority Students) Project, a Lumina Foundation for Education-supported initiative in which over a hundred minority-serving institutions (MSIs) are working to build capacity to increase student learning and success. BEAMS functions under the auspices of the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, a national coalition representing more than 350 MSIs that is coordinated by the Institute for Higher Education Policy.
“Throughout her career Margarita Benitez has been an outstanding advocate and leader in higher education policy,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, President of the Institute. “Her presence will significantly enhance the Institute’s capacity in several critical areas of our work.”
Benítez was born and raised at the University of Puerto Rico. She holds degrees from Vassar College, Middlebury College, and Columbia University. After heading the Cayey campus of the University of Puerto Rico from 1985 to 1994, she moved to address higher education issues beyond Puerto Rico. She was active in the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (1990-1996), and held various positions at the U.S. Department of Education from 1998 to 2004.
As a senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, she coordinated the nationwide launching of federal programs such as GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) in 1998-99, and Title V (Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions) in 1999. She oversaw the Title III and Title V institutional development programs for all minority-serving institutions (2002-2002) as well as other federal programs designed to assist disadvantaged students prepare for, enter, and succeed in post-secondary education (TRIO: Upward Bound, Talent Search, Educational Opportunity Centers, 2002-2004).
Benítez writes and lectures frequently on topics related to higher education, accreditation, minority-serving institutions, women’s issues, Hispanic literatures, and Hispanics in the United States. She currently coordinates academic initiatives in the United States for the University of Puerto Rico, and is an advisor to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration. She also chairs the EXITO (Excellent Ideas Transform Outcomes) Task Force for Excelencia in Education, an organization that focuses on Latino student success in higher education.
At the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Benitez joins a group of distinguished staff and Senior Associates who provide hands-on leadership for the organization’s ground-breaking research and policy projects. The Institute is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization whose mission is to foster access and success in postsecondary education through public policy research and other activities that inform and influence the policymaking process. These activities include policy reports and studies, seminars and meetings, and capacity building activities such as strategic planning.