Kanter, 64, is the Education Department's first undersecretary with experience as a community-college leader. Before her confirmation in April 2009, she was chancellor of Silicon Valley's Foothill-De Anza Community College District, one of the largest in the nation. This experience made her the perfect fit for Obama's campaign to promote community colleges as an affordable alternative to four-year universities. Kanter also oversees the complex matrix of student financial aid. It has fallen to her to defend Pell Grants from budget cuts, a successful endeavor so far, and to implement the direct-student-loan program. Kanter will be a player on Capitol Hill this year as lawmakers debate how to handle the increase in need-based student-loan interest rates from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent that went into effect July 1. Democrats, along with some Republicans, want to see a broader overhaul of the federal financial-aid system. Kanter is a Bostonian by birth who migrated west. She earned her master's degree in education at Harvard and a Ph.D. in organization and leadership at the University of San Francisco. In 1977, she established the first program for students with learning disabilities at San Jose City College in California. For relaxation, she says, "I love the National Arboretum's bonsai pavilion. It is a sacred place for visioning and reflection."