Rebecca Taber Staehelin
Co-Founder & Co-CEO
Rebecca has spent the past decade focusing on education-for-employment across the private, public and social sectors. She began her professional career as a management consultant with McKinsey, where she advised a range of government agencies and education institutions. Following an engagement with the State of Delaware, she became Chief Performance Officer at the Delaware Department of Education, and was later appointed Education Advisor to Governor Jack Markell.
During her four years in Delaware, Rebecca saw firsthand how the current higher education system largely fails students from low-income families. 83% of the State’s low-income high school students did not make it through to their second year of post-secondary education. Nationally, 85% of low-income students do not earn college degrees within eight years of high school graduation. And yet, the national average salary for those with only a high school degree is just $35K.
After completing her joint MBA and MA in Education at Stanford, Rebecca joined Coursera, the world’s largest online education platform – with the goal of understanding how technology could help expand access to educational opportunity. Over her four years in Silicon Valley, Rebecca saw how new education technologies could help people transform their lives, but also that technology was primarily reaching those who had already succeeded in the traditional education system.
Working as Coursera’s Director of Government & Nonprofit Partnerships, Rebecca built and led a team that formed over 50 partnerships reaching tens of thousands of learners – including low-income youth, underemployed adults, and refugees. The most innovative of these partnerships were based outside of the U.S., though, and it became clear that few established U.S.-based organizations were using new technologies to scale their education-to-employment programs.
From those experiences came the idea for Merit America. Merit America’s goal is to provide a path to in-demand careers for Americans who can’t yet compete for such roles, with the flexibility and support that working adults need. By combining online learning with significant live support, Merit America is building the most effective and scalable model in the field.