Laitinen, now with the New America Foundation, is a former Education Sector senior policy analyst on higher education. She previously served as a policy advisor to the undersecretary and assistant secretary for vocational and adult education at the U.S. Department of Education. At the department, Laitinen was responsible for developing policy and budget proposals for postsecondary education, adult and workforce education, and interagency policy, including SAFRA, WIA, TAACCCT, and what became the newly-proposed Race to the Top for College Affordability and First in the World initiatives. She also led policy design efforts for President Obama's proposed $12-billion American Graduation Initiative and served as a policy advisor in the White House, where she helped plan the White House Community College Summit.
Prior, Laitinen served as chief of staff for Matt Gonzalez, president of San Francisco’s legislative body. She also worked as an economic analyst for the University of California Institute for Labor and Employment, where she wrote an analysis that led San Francisco to adopt its own municipal minimum wage. For two years, she taught in Manhattan as a Teach For America corps member.
Laitinen is the product of public higher education, holding an associate’s degree from Miami-Dade Community College, a bachelor’s degree from New College of Florida, and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California at Berkeley.