Press Releases

Modern States Education Alliance Names New Executive Director

Dr. Jefferson Pestronk to lead nonprofit’s next stage of growth and improvement

Jefferson Pestronk
Dr. Jefferson Pestronk

New York (July 24, 2023) – Modern States Education Alliance (“Modern States”), the nation’s leading philanthropy dedicated to making a college degree more affordable and accessible for everyone, today announced the appointment of Dr. Jefferson Pestronk as executive director. Pestronk brings a wealth of experience and deep understanding of the education, technology, and social impact sectors to the organization. He will work alongside Modern States’ CEO and founder, Steve Klinsky, and succeeds David Vise, who continues on as senior advisor.

“A nationwide search led us to Jefferson and I look forward to working with him to enable Modern States to continue to grow and flourish,” said Klinsky. “His expertise in education, his work in public policy at the federal Department of Education, and his proven ability to harness the power of technology for better learning outcomes, make Jefferson the perfect fit for our organization.”

“Over the last six years, Modern States – with over 400,000 users – has grown to become the largest free credit for college program in the United States. I am excited to bring our free courses to even more learners and educators across the country,” said Pestronk. “I firmly believe in the organization’s mission of making a college education accessible and affordable, and I am honored to work with Steve and our team to lead Modern States into its next chapter.”

Pestronk has nearly two decades of experience working in education at the local, state and federal level. Most recently, he served as vice president for strategy and development at New Visions for Public Schools, one of the largest non-profit organizations focused on improving public education for all New York City students. Before joining New Visions, Pestronk was director of special initiatives in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. He also served as principal at The Parthenon Group, where he consulted with some of the largest school systems in the country, including New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Pestronk holds a doctorate in education leadership from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in operations research and financial engineering from Princeton University. He resides in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

Modern States offers a “public library” of high-quality, tuition-free online courses, available to everyone at The courses are taught by some of the nation’s leading university professors and are specially designed to help learners earn college credit by preparing them for the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams. The College Board has offered CLEP exams for over 50 years, and more than 2,900 colleges and universities across the country accept a passing score on a CLEP exam for college credit. Modern States also covers the cost of taking CLEP exams for learners who complete its free courses, as part of its mission to make a college education accessible to all people regardless of their financial circumstances. To date, Modern States has paid for approximately 150,000 CLEP exams.

The program was conceived by Klinsky beginning in 2012. Modern States spent years building and producing its course library and since launching in 2017, has evolved into the largest free credit for college program in the country. Along with the Klinsky family, Modern States has received funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Starr Foundation, the Heckscher Foundation for Children, the Achelis & Bodman Foundation, the Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation, and others.

For more information about Modern States and its courses, please visit


About Modern States

Modern States is a NYC-based philanthropy dedicated to making a college degree more affordable and accessible for everyone. Its flagship “Freshman Year for Free” program offers more than 30 free online college courses taught by top university professors that are available to anyone with an Internet connection. Students can use these courses to earn college credits by preparing for and taking credit-bearing CLEP exams, as offered by the College Board, and accepted by more than 2,900 colleges. Learn more at

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