Mary Alice McCarthy

Director, Center on Education & Skills

Mary Alice McCarthy is the director of the Center on Education and Skills with the Education Policy program at New America (CESNA). Her work examines the intersection between higher education, workforce development, and job training policies. The Center is dedicated to building learning-based pathways to economic opportunity that can begin inside or outside of formal higher education. McCarthy’s writing has been featured in a diverse set of media outlets including the Washington Monthly, The Atlantic, and the Journal on Community College Research and Practice. In addition to her research, she participates in a wide variety of public engagement, technical assistance, and coalition-building efforts aimed at improving postsecondary education policy and practice.

Prior to joining New America, McCarthy worked at both the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor. She led a variety of technical assistance initiatives in the areas career pathways, credentialing, and competency-based education. While at the Department of Labor, she led a technical assistance initiative with nine states and two tribal entities on how to build and support career pathway programs. She co-founded an interagency working group with staff from the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor that continues to meet and coordinate federal investments in relation to career pathways. She also wrote policy guidance on credentialing and career pathways and supported the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) and Workforce Innovation Fund grant programs, helping design the solicitations and technical assistance activities.

McCarthy also has extensive international experience and she has explored how other countries are tackling the skills challenge. While at the Department of Education, she served as the liaison to a team of OECD researchers conducting a review of postsecondary education and training in the United States. At New America, she has continued her work with the OECD and is currently leading a similar review of Peru’s postsecondary education system, which will be published in the spring of 2016 as part of “Skills Beyond School” series of country studies. She also participates in the International Pathways Colloquium, an annual gathering of researchers and policy advocates from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia to share learning in the area of career and technical education and workforce development.  She has a PhD in political science from the University of North Carolina and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

All Work

Why Are Women Still Choosing the Lowest-Paying Jobs?

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in the Atlantic on the gender divide in certificate programs.

Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in a New York Times Magazine article on increasing credential requirements for early childhood educators.

The False Promises of Worker Retraining

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in the Atlantic on worker retraining.

Eight Recommendations for Connecting Apprenticeship and Higher Education

To make the most of apprenticeship, policymakers must make it part of—not an "alternative" to—higher education.

Holding the PROSPER Act Accountable

This first post in our series on Rep. Foxx's new HEA bill analyzes accountability under the proposal.

A Not-So-Simple Simplification in the PROSPER Act

This second post in our series on Rep. Foxx's new HEA bill analyzes financial aid policies under the proposal.

The “Innovation” Trap in the PROSPER Act

This third post in our series on Rep. Foxx's new HEA bill analyzes "innovation" policies under the proposal.

Everyone Agrees on Value of Apprenticeships. The Question Is How to Pay for Them.

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education on making apprenticeship a part of higher education.

Expanding Apprenticeships Across More Jobs

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in Inside Higher Ed on using apprenticeships as an education and training model.

Announcing the Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative

Six months on from the national conference, the Center on Education & Skills rolls out the next phase of the Apprenticeship Forward mission.

Is DeVos Devaluing Degrees?

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in Inside Higher Ed on the reputation of career and technical education.

Connecting Credentials Releases Five New Workgroup Reports

CESNA co-led a Connecting Credentials workgroup organized around the charge of "Making 'All Learning Counts' a Reality."