Opinions Worth Your ATTN:

You’ve probably never heard of 2U, but I joined the board because I know you will soon.

Education has played such a transformational role in my life, from my earliest years, through college at Stanford and law school at the University of Michigan. I believe all Americans should have the same opportunity that I had. So, during the eight years of the Obama Administration, I was thrilled to work to expand access and improve the quality of education from Pre-K to lifelong learning.


Today, technology continues to rapidly transform every company, entire industries, and our economy as a whole. As a result, more and more working adults are looking for ways to further their education and ensure that they have the skills necessary for success in today’s evolving economy. For many of these people getting an advanced degree from a great university feels like an out of reach goal because quitting a good job or moving to attend school just isn’t a realistic option.

That is one of the reasons why I am so excited to announce that I’ve joined the 2U board of directors. Like many of you, I suspect, I didn’t know a lot about 2U before I met Chip Paucek, the company’s co-founder and CEO. During our first conversation, he asked me one simple question: why should you have to quit your job, uproot your family and move across the country to get an advanced degree from a great university?

Together with its current portfolio of 23 university partners — including 10 of the top 20 US News & World Report ranked schools —  2U has helped to answer that question with a resounding: “You don’t!”

Whether it’s an advanced degree in data science at UC Berkeley, nursing at Georgetown, communications at Syracuse University, MBA at UNC Chapel Hill, speech language pathology at NYU or Physician Assistant at Yale, by offering adult learners and non-traditional students weekly live online classes with great faculty, locally accessible clinical placements, and in-person immersions, 2U has helped bring the best of graduate education to students regardless of where they live. And the quality of their outcomes speaks volumes about the company’s commitment to educational excellence. Since its founding less than a decade ago, 2U powered online programs have an average retention rate of 83 percent, which is better than some campus-based graduate programs. When students win, universities win and 2U wins. That alignment means student academic success is what drives 2U’s business success.

My excitement about joining the 2U board of directors goes beyond my belief in its mission and commitment to quality outcomes — it also reflects my belief in the authenticity of the culture of engagement and inclusion that Chip has fostered.

I recently had the chance to visit the 2U headquarters in Prince George’s County, Maryland and meet hundreds of 2Utes as well as spend time with the senior management team. Beyond the obvious passion for their work, I was so excited to see a technology company with a workforce that actually looks like America. It is no accident then that the same can be said about 2U’s current 10-member board of directors, which already includes two women and three people of color.

No matter where you live, having access to an education is the key to upward mobility. I have been inspired by 2U’s dedication to ensuring that higher education is more convenient and accessible to working adults and non-traditional students, and its commitment to making lifelong learning possible for all. We share the belief that a company should not only be focused on the bottom line – it should focus on lifting people up. Chip is an inspirational leader who has made remarkable efforts to create a digital education system of the highest quality. I am honored to be joining 2U’s board and I’m looking forward to furthering my lifelong commitment to expanding access to quality education.

Valerie Jarrett served as senior advisor to President Barack Obama.