SHEEO Announces Excellence Awards Recipients

State higher education agencies and leadership recognized for dedication and innovation

WASHINGTON – The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) has announced the organization’s 2024 SHEEO Excellence Awards recipients. The awards recognize the leadership, dedication, and innovation of exceptional SHEEOs, agency staff, and agencies at a time when state postsecondary policy is increasingly linked to student success, social mobility, and states’ workforce and economic prosperity.

  • This year’s Exceptional Leader Award recipient is Aaron Thompson, President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
  • The Exceptional Agency Award recipient goes to Pennsylvania’s State System for Higher Education.
  • The 2024 David L. Wright Memorial Award recipient is Robert Haelen, Senior Vice Chancellor for Capital Facilities, at the State University of New York (SUNY).

Reflecting on the SHEEO Excellence Awards, Dr. Robert Anderson, SHEEO President, said: “SHEEO is proud to acknowledge the dedication of all our state higher education executive officers, their agencies, and agency staff members. The hours worked, the ideas generated, and the tenacity demonstrated by these individuals and agencies to help address the needs of students and promote equitable educational outcomes are worthy of praise. We are honored to recognize the winners of this year’s SHEEO Excellence Awards.”

Exceptional Leader Award

The Exceptional Leader Award is presented to a current state higher education executive officer from a member agency who has shown exceptional leadership, a commitment to higher education, a contribution to the greater good, and service to the SHEEO Association within the last year.

This year’s recipient of the Exceptional Leader Award, Dr. Aaron Thompson, is the President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE). As a first-generation high school graduate and college graduate, Thompson’s commitment to education is demonstrated through years of service to students through teaching, policy, advocacy, and his leadership at the state level, as well as his involvement in SHEEO at the national level. 

Thompson previously taught for 20 years and served as associate vice president for academic affairs, both at Eastern Kentucky University. He transitioned to CPE in 2009, holding positions as senior vice president for academic affairs and executive vice president. Thompson briefly held the position of interim president of Kentucky State University before re-joining CPE as President in 2018. In this role, Thompson has made narrowing student achievement gaps an agency priority. 

Under Thompson’s leadership, CPE implemented Kentucky’s postsecondary diversity, equity and inclusion policy, which ties campuses’ performance on equity measures to their ability to offer new programs in an academic year. He founded the Kentucky Student Success Collaborative, a unique partnership of public and private institutions from two- and four-year postsecondary sectors that focus on improving student outcomes for underserved students. Under Thompson’s leadership, CPE has also implemented a performance funding model for higher education that provides financial incentives for degrees and credentials awarded to low-income and underrepresented minority students. As a result, underrepresented minority students’ total enrollment has grown by 28 percent, and their credentials have increased by 42 percent during his tenure.

Thompson has led the charge on several CPE workforce initiatives, including the Healthcare Workforce Collaborative, which seeks to strengthen Kentucky’s health care workforce, and the Kentucky Graduate Profile, a statewide effort to instill employability skills into the curricula of all undergraduate programs.

“Kentucky is fortunate to have a leader who’s passionate about increasing postsecondary access and success,” said Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman. “Dr. Thompson knows the future of the Commonwealth is in our classrooms, and his commitment to serving underrepresented students has made a demonstrable difference in the lives of Kentuckians.”

According to Madison Silvert, CPE Board Chair, “Aaron’s rapport with state leaders has increased the Council on Postsecondary Education’s reputation and ability to drive a strong agenda. Increasingly, CPE is looked to for expert testimony and recommendations related to postsecondary issues in the Commonwealth. Aaron’s leadership is a big part of this.”

Exceptional Agency Award

The Exceptional Agency Award is presented to a member agency whose innovative actions, policies, or practices advanced student success in their state; which displayed exceptional governance practices; overcame exceptional challenges; or displayed other meritorious attributes within the last year. SHEEO has selected Pennsylvania’s State System for Higher Education as this year’s awardee.

Pennsylvania’s State System for Higher Education (PASSHE) recently embarked on a purposeful and inclusive restructuring to provide greater opportunities for all students. PASSHE’s system redesign includes steps to address urgent workforce development needs and persist as a potent source for social mobility. PASSHE’s redesign includes tuition freezes to help with student affordability and enrollment, and rebuilding the partnership with government leaders to secure historic state funding increases, including a nearly 30 percent state funding increase, and $370 million in one-time funds. 

Faced with declining enrollment and severe financial pressures at some universities, PASSHE took the bold step to create two new universities by uniting six legacy institutions. The transformation preserves higher education opportunities across countless rural communities in Pennsylvania and enables students to have more access to courses, programs, and experiences than they would have without the integration of those schools. Additionally, PASSHE leverages its universities’ strengths as a system to restructure accountability and governance, uses data analytics for metrics-based decisions, and partners with the private sector to expand internships and align academic programs to workforce needs.

These bold actions and achievements have positioned PASSHE as a role model among SHEEO agencies.

“PASSHE is fundamentally transforming its education and business models to continue its historic mission as an engine of workforce development and social mobility. The work is not easy, but it is in the best interests of our students, their families, communities, and our Commonwealth,” said Chancellor Dr. Dan Greenstein. “I’m incredibly proud that the hard work, dedication, and accomplishments of people across our system are being recognized with the Exceptional Agency Award from SHEEO. Higher education is undergoing enormous changes, and PASSHE is evolving to emphasize affordability, student success, fiscal responsibility, and transparency.”

Of PASSHE’s recent innovation, Dr. Cynthia Shapira, Chair, Board of Governors, said, “Thanks to the tremendous vision and leadership of Chancellor Dan Greenstein, PASSHE is undergoing a remarkable transformation that includes restoring our partnership with state leaders, securing historic state funding increases, keeping tuition flat, and much more. We continue to face the same headwinds that all public universities are facing, but we are better positioned today because of the important steps we are taking — all of which are making education more accessible and expanding the college-to-career pipeline that is strengthening Pennsylvania’s workforce and economy.”

David L. Wright Memorial Award

The David L. Wright Memorial Award is named in honor of the late David Wright, an esteemed colleague and leader in state higher education who served in the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, and the Florida Governing Board. This award recognizes a current SHEEO agency staff member from a member agency who embodies the exceptional commitment, work ethic, and ethical practices of David Wright and made outstanding contributions to their agency. This year’s David L. Wright Memorial Award is presented to Robert Haelen, Senior Vice Chancellor for Capital Facilities, at the State University of New York (SUNY).

Haelen brings extensive experience and effective leadership to his position, including over 30 years of experience in developing and implementing multi-year capital plans in public higher education. As Senior Vice Chancellor for Capital Facilities, Haelen provides strategic and tactical advice to SUNY’s senior leadership team as well as to campus leadership on challenging policy and financial issues and with structuring complex transactions. 

Whether supporting the new construction projects that provide outpatient care and clinical space for students to practice, or repairing infrastructure leaks to keep a campus operational, Haelen engages his team providing tactical advice on projects, no matter how big or small, to achieve successful outcomes. He also graciously leads by example, putting his hard hat on, getting dusty and dirty, and touring projects experiencing difficult issues in order to support his team and provide experiential guidance.

Haelen is responsible for setting policy and guidelines for the procurement of design and construction services and property acquisitions, and the management and oversight of the Residence Hall Capital Program (496 buildings that comprise 21 million gross square feet and house 82,000 beds) and the Community College Capital Program (536 buildings that comprise 19.9 million gross square feet). 

As General Manager of the State University Construction Fund, Haelen manages the planning, design, construction and funding of capital projects within SUNY’s multi-billion dollar educational and hospital facilities capital plans, which are comprised of 1,795 buildings and 68.2 million gross square feet of space. 

Some of Haelen’s recent accomplishments include:

  • Overseeing a recent endeavor to initiate and complete clean energy master plans for SUNY’s 34 State-operated campuses providing valuable information on SUNY’s sustainability pathway going forward;
  • Initiating a debt restructuring for the two years’ worth of debt service on Residence Hall Program, providing $300 million in total cash flow relief in 2020-21 and 2021-22, which allowed SUNY to navigate the financial turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • Implementing the purchase and installation of an asset management software package for 64 campuses, effectively replacing existing legacy systems while at the same time, providing a vehicle for performing life cycle modeling for the 34 State-operated campuses.

With extensive experience and carrying out each project with pride — all for the betterment of every student’s college experience – Haelen made an excellent candidate to receive this year’s David L. Wright Award. 

SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. said, “Bob Haelen is a proud product of the SUNY system, receiving his master’s from the University at Albany and serving SUNY with distinction for over 30 years. He is an outstanding leader, ensuring the successful planning, design, and construction of all SUNY capital projects for state-operated campuses to provide state-of-the-art facilities for our students, faculty, and staff. I am truly thrilled and proud to see Bob’s hard work and leadership recognized by SHEEO with the David L. Wright Memorial Award.”

Learn more about SHEEO Excellence Awards, including past winners at

SHEEO welcomes Brenna Mathews as new Administrative Coordinator

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) welcomed Brenna Mathews as its new Administrative Coordinator.

In her role, Mathews will support SHEEO staff in events, communications, and clerical duties on a variety of SHEEO projects. 

Prior to joining SHEEO, Mathews served as the graduate assistant for the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education’s administrative staff and worked with special programs. Mathews’ experience includes coordinating the Governor’s Teaching Fellows, an outreach program hosted by the McBee Institute to train faculty from across the state of Georgia, and across disciplines, to improve pedagogical techniques. 

Mathews found her passion for higher education during her time in undergraduate education when she served as an admissions ambassador and orientation leader. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University in political science and Arabic language and culture, and a Master of Education from the University of Georgia.

Learn more about our team at

SHEEO welcomes state policy interns for the summer

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) welcomes Kahlea Hunt-Khabir and Gus Gluek as state policy interns this summer.

Over the next few months, Kahlea will support SHEEO’s student mental health and wellness learning community, the Pursuing Alignment for Student Success Across Higher Education Institutions & State Agencies (PASS) project, and complete an independent project. Gus will lead a postsecondary value survey, support the Strong Foundations survey work, help with the Minority-Serving Institution (MSI) data project, and complete an independent project.

Kahlea is a doctoral student studying higher education, student affairs, and international education policy at the University of Maryland, with a concentration in higher education. Her research focuses on access and equity, organizational change, critical pedagogy, epistemic violence, and postcolonial theories in education. Kahlea is the lead research assistant for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary System Opportunities – Evidence & Strategic Analysis grant.

She graduated from the University of Denver in 2020 with a master’s in higher education, emphasizing diversity and learning. At DU, she was the program coordinator for the Denver Promise Scholars Program and principal investigator for Seeking Grace: Mining the Archives of Black Women at DU (documentary). She has worked on research projects in Brazil, South Africa, Cuba, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. 

Gus is a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania studying higher education and data analytics. His research interests include access and persistence for underrepresented students, higher education funding, and student debt. 

Gus earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Colby College and his master’s in public policy from Vanderbilt University. Prior to his doctoral studies, Gus worked at the Tennessee Board of Regents studying adult students’ success across the state.

Learn more about our team at

New SHEEO report shows Idaho Direct Admissions program impact on institution selectivity

Direct Admissions programs are designed to demystify the college application process, reduce barriers to entry, and encourage students to enroll in postsecondary education. Since 2015, Direct Admissions policies have garnered a lot of attention, with Idaho being the first in the nation to implement the program. The program has since emerged as a potential model for other states considering similar reforms. Previous research on Direct Admissions policies in Idaho has examined the policy’s effectiveness on institutional applications and enrollment outcomes. In a new paper, SHEEO uses data on the receipt of a Letter of 6 and receipt of a Letter of 8 to understand how Direct Admissions policies influence student choice in institutional selectivity. 

Using the student’s SAT score and GPA, the Idaho Office of the State Board of Education proactively admits high school students to the “Letter of 6” or “Letter of 8.” Students receiving the Letter of 8 are admitted to all of Idaho’s public higher education institutions, while students receiving the Letter of 6 are admitted to all except Boise State University and the University of Idaho, the two more selective institutions in the state. Once a student is guaranteed a seat at any of the colleges listed in their Direct Admissions letter, students then apply to the institutions of choice to verify their enrollment intentions.

SHEEO examined data from 2018-2020, including demographic characteristics and school choice of students above and below GPA thresholds for students receiving the Letter of 8. Analysis found that students with a low SAT score and/or low GPA are less likely to attend one of the more selective institutions based on academic performance alone, but receiving the Letter of 8 encourages their enrollment at these selective institutions.

Read the full report and learn more at

For only the second time, state funding to public colleges exceeds per-student funding levels seen prior to the Great Recession

The latest State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) report finds that in 2023, public higher education appropriations increased 3.7% beyond inflation, surpassing pre-recession per-student funding levels for only the second time since 2008. The SHEF report also finds that fiscal year 2023 saw the largest decline in tuition revenue since the start of the SHEF dataset in 1980, and public FTE enrollment continued to decline.

After a short recession in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, historical patterns following economic recessions reversed in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Instead of the typical decrease in state funding following a recession, education appropriations increased for the 11th straight year, rising $1,247 per full-time equivalent (FTE) from 2020 to 2023. Inflation-adjusted education appropriations per FTE were greater than pre-recession funding levels in 2008, by 6.7% or $697 per FTE. The increase in education appropriations per FTE can be attributed to three notable trends: increasing state commitments to higher education funding, a sharp decline in FTE enrollment, and generous federal stimulus funding. 

Additional findings from this year’s report include:

  • Public FTE enrollment has now declined for 12 straight years to 10.2 million in 2023, down 0.5% since 2022, and down 12.1% from an enrollment peak in 2011. Nationally, public institutions have lost all the additional FTE enrollment gained following the Great Recession. In 2023, FTE enrollment was 0.2% lower than in 2008. 
  • State and local government funding for higher education totaled $129.8 billion in fiscal year 2023, including more than $1.7 billion (1.3%) in federal stimulus funding. Inflation-adjusted federal stimulus funding for higher education declined $609.3 million or 26.6% from fiscal year 2022. 
  • Education appropriations increased 1.6% at two-year institutions and 4.2% at four-year institutions. Without federal stimulus funding directed by states to higher education and without the decline in FTE enrollment, inflation-adjusted education appropriations still would have increased 5.8% from 2020. Although national-level education appropriations have recovered to 2008 levels, 25 states continue funding higher education at a lower level than prior to the Great Recession.
  • State public financial aid per FTE increased 2.5% from 2022 to 2023 and reached an all-time high of $1,050 per FTE enrolled student. These funds made up 9.5% of all education appropriations. Financial aid per FTE increased in 27 states in the last year.
  • Inflation-adjusted net tuition revenue decreased 3.3% in 2023 and has declined 9.4% in the last five years. Public institutions received $7,353 per FTE in net tuition and fee revenue in 2023. Public institutions in 37 states and Washington, D.C., collected less tuition revenue than they did five years ago. Decreases in net tuition revenue are largely due to increases in state financial aid and minimal tuition rate growth (lower than the rate of inflation). Despite recent declines, since 1980, net tuition revenue per FTE has increased in every state and has increased by more than 100% in 42 states.
  • Total education revenue increased 0.8% from 2022 to 2023, reaching an all-time high of $18,301 per FTE. However, total education revenue is at an all-time high in only 13 states, and many institutions are not at an all-time high for total education revenue. Additionally, the increase in total education revenue since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is explained by federal stimulus funding and the enrollment decline. Excluding federal stimulus funding, and if enrollment had held constant at 2020 levels, total education revenue per FTE would have decreased 2.3% from 2020 to 2023. 
  • The student share decreased from 41.9% in 2022 to 40.2% in 2023. Thirty-five states saw declines, but student tuition and fees funding public higher education still comprised more than 50% of total revenues in 21 states. Continued increases in education appropriations and declines in net tuition revenue have reduced the proportion of total revenue financed by students. 

As these findings demonstrate, fiscal year 2023 continued to defy several long-term trends in higher education finance and showed growth in education appropriations. The continued decline in net tuition revenue puts greater pressure on states to not cut funding to public higher education in the coming years. As federal stimulus funds run out, some states may face difficult budgetary decisions.

“Seeing additional increases in state support for higher education demonstrates a continued commitment in many states to fund financial aid and their public institutions. It’s encouraging to see that even as federal stimulus funds dwindle, states are investing in higher education and see the value it brings,” said SHEEO President Robert E. Anderson. “Amidst increasing concerns about student affordability and student loan debt, states must make conscious efforts to continue to decrease the financial burden on students and families.”

The SHEF report broadly addresses the wide variation in how states fund public higher education. However, state-specific context is incredibly important when discussing higher education finance trends. “The trends detailed in the SHEF report reflect national and state averages, but there are almost always outliers in every trend. Even within states, there can be wide variation in the enrollment and revenue patterns at each institution,” said Kelsey Kunkle, Policy Analyst at SHEEO and author of the report. “We know that state funding and institutional revenue impact student outcomes, and the negative impacts of low and unequal institutional revenues disproportionately affect students of color and low-income students.”

The full SHEF report paints a more complete picture of differences in public higher education finance across states.

Explore the SHEF website to read the full report and customize the interactive data visualizations, including individual state profiles. Look for more data from SHEF to be added to the website in the coming months. 

SHEEO and JED convene top policy leaders for system-wide mental health progress

Key voices in higher education policy and mental health gathered in Minneapolis to discuss progress and potential for student wellness.

MINNEAPOLIS — The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and The Jed Foundation (JED), a leading nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for teens and young adults nationwide, with generous support from the Lumina Foundation, convened state higher education leaders, mental health professionals, students, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to discuss critical policy changes needed to support the emotional health and well-being of college students. 

The Wellness Blueprint: Cultivating Foundations for Statewide Student Mental Health Policy,” a special event held in Minneapolis from April 29–May 1, included sessions and discussions about the learning community program and grant opportunities provided by JED and SHEEO. Roberto J. Rodríguez, ED’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, delivered a keynote speech and inspired discussion among attendees, which included state policy leaders from Arizona, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Each state collaborated with JED and SHEEO to generate system-wide policy recommendations to strengthen college and university mental health and wellness capacities, particularly among low-income and diverse students. 

“A single institution, government agency, or community organization may face challenges while advocating for the changes required to protect youth mental health. By collaborating across the federal, state, and local levels, a clearer path towards progress and the creation of meaningful systems-level change can be possible,” Rodríguez said. “It was great to see a willingness from education and policy decision-makers to make that happen.”  

The Wellness Convening helped states meet the growing urgency around youth mental health. Research indicates that today’s young people are facing loneliness, increased access to firearms, climate anxiety, financial insecurity, and a lack of access to care.

“The statistics are clear: Young people are currently facing unprecedented mental health challenges. At JED, our data demonstrates that when comprehensive approaches are implemented and championed by higher education systems, we can meaningfully reduce suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts,” said Zainab Okolo, the senior vice president of policy, advocacy, and government relations at JED. “Higher education systems are encouraged to address these issues head-on. This summit was a critical step toward creating scalable and effective policy solutions that prioritize the well-being of all our nation’s college students.”

“Student wellness is directly related to student success, and state higher education agencies are uniquely situated to help develop student-centered policies and practices,” said John Lane, the vice president for academic affairs and equity initiatives at SHEEO. “This learning community and convening are designed specifically to help states develop plans to support institutions as they address the startling statistics around student mental health and well-being.”

Examining state and university progress and policies, while also amplifying the voices of young people as part of the solution, helped attendees identify key takeaways and priorities from the convening, including:

  • The implementation of a campus-wide, comprehensive approach to mental health that holistically encompasses strategic planning, data collection, equitable implementation, life skills development, creating a sense of belonging, reducing stigma, and identifying students in need of care.
  • An emphasis on effective proactive measures to address external factors that impact student mental health,  including societal challenges, technological advancements, and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The vital need for a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) lens, alongside representation of diverse voices and perspectives, when considering mental health policy and service delivery.
  • Financial prioritization of mental health initiatives, including considerations for licensure across state lines and equitable access to services. 
  • Utilizing evidence-based policy and program development and evaluation for effective mental health strategies, including using research findings, engaging with reputable organizations, and incorporating an equity lens in policy reviews.
  • Supporting advocacy and collaboration to engage institutional stakeholders, state systems, legislators, and student bodies to advance mental health priorities and resources, including building relationships, organizing collective efforts, and advancing systems-change work.

As state leaders return to their home communities, these findings will be reviewed and customized to the needs of their students and higher education institutions.

“Louisiana is honored to participate in the inaugural Student Mental Health and Wellness Learning Community, sponsored by SHEEO and JED, as we work to bolster existing mental health programs and pursue innovative initiatives tailored to the evolving needs of Louisiana’s student population,” said Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, Louisiana’s commissioner of higher education. “The consultative strategic planning and technical assistance offered within the learning community will assist Louisiana in creating a sustainable model to support the mental health and well-being of our students.”

Learn more about the event and the learning community on the SHEEO project webpage.

For pictures from the event, please email


About JED:

JED is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. We’re partnering with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems. We’re equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other. We’re encouraging community awareness, understanding, and action for young adult mental health.

Postsecondary data system privacy and funding focus of new Strong Foundations report

In a new report, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) examines the ongoing efforts and challenges states have in safeguarding and sustaining their postsecondary student unit record systems (PSURSs). PSURSs are the primary means for states to collect data and analyze student progress, completions, and outcomes. 

For more than 50 years, state higher education agencies have used PSURSs to inform policy and decision-making. In a survey to its members, SHEEO asked state higher education agencies about their PSURSs – survey responses and analysis are outlined in a Strong Foundations report and subsequent dashboards on the website. To understand the influence of changing data governance and funding realities, in Strong Foundations 2023, SHEEO extended its examination into data privacy and security standards. 

SHEEO’s new report State Postsecondary Data: How Data Governance and Funding Influence Innovation and Sustainability, shows a continued commitment to protecting the security and privacy of PSURSs data, with all state agencies following established federal and state data handling standards. State agencies are also adhering to established internal data policies to reduce the risk of data loss and privacy violations. They continue to have data breach protocols in place or comply with overarching state protocols. Recognizing robust protocols and infrastructures alone is not enough, state agencies are taking additional steps. They provide training to staff to ensure the appropriate use of data and PII; are building upon data governance councils to ensure data security and privacy standards are in place; and are creating Chief Data Privacy officer positions

Looking toward the future, state agencies have a slate of planned technology priorities to improve PSURSs’ impacts and processes and to reduce risk to those systems. They reported the need to hire new staff or leverage current personnel to help improve capacity, governance, and use of their PSURSs in response to increasing demands by state stakeholders for targeted, real-time, and consumable data reporting.

“Universally, state agencies emphasized the need for further investment in their PSURSs to stay economically competitive and to meet state objectives,” said Carrie Klein, Associate Vice President at SHEEO. “As states seek to improve student outcomes and state goals, they need more support of PSURS infrastructure, data, and personnel.”

Find more information about data and privacy efforts around student postsecondary data systems in this new report here

A revamped website with new dashboards has been developed to help SHEEO members understand the full survey results from the Strong Foundations 2023 report. Visit to explore or download the data.

SHEEO partners with Sova to align student success across higher education institutions & state agencies

Four states to join new learning community focused on student success

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) is excited to announce our partnership with Sova to form a new learning community that fosters a collaborative relationship between state agencies and higher education institution student success teams. This new partnership, with generous funding from the Ascendium Education Group, will support better alignment of student success policies and practices. The Pursuing Alignment for Student Success Across Higher Education Institutions & State Agencies (PASS) project will partner with higher education leaders in Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Wyoming through 2025. 

“This new initiative adopts a networked strategy, emphasizing the importance of alignment between state higher education offices and institutions to foster more equitable student success,” said SHEEO President Rob Anderson. “Our members are uniquely positioned to serve as pivotal intermediaries, bridging state policy and higher education for the benefit of students. We look forward to seeing how these efforts can be scaled to make a broader impact across our membership.”

PASS will focus on scaling the impact of student success efforts statewide by formalizing state networks and promoting strategies between institutional leadership teams and state higher education leaders. Institutional chief academic officers will provide insights into current initiatives and best practices to support student needs and catalyze campus-wide support for their success. In addition, institutions will benefit from enhanced access to policy development across sectors, missions, geographic regions, and service areas statewide. At the same time, SHEEO agencies will use their state and system-wide platforms both to serve as conduits of this best-practice exchange and to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges institutions face and how best to coordinate advocacy for their students. 

Each state team will receive planning grants and strategic planning and technical assistance that recognizes their unique context and needs. This networked approach aims to achieve the following:

  • a better understanding of the impacts of state policy on campus transformation efforts; 
  • render campus-based student success work less vulnerable to changes in leadership, policy, and political circumstances; and 
  • an opportunity to benefit SHEEO’s full membership nationwide.

“We’re excited about the work our campus and state teams have committed to create and build on the habits of practice and cultures of collaboration that allow for durable, meaningful, and impactful partnerships between state agency offices and institutional leaders. Sustained student success requires institutions and state agencies to align on goals, leverage their respective strengths, and work in partnership to ensure that today’s students receive the education they deserve and their communities require for economic growth,” said Brian A. Sponsler, partner at Sova.


The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) serves the executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education and their staffs. Founded in 1954, SHEEO promotes an environment that values higher education and its role in ensuring the equitable education of all Americans, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic factors. Together with its members, SHEEO aims to achieve this vision by equipping state higher education executive officers and their staffs with the tools to effectively advance the value of higher education, promoting public policies and academic practices that enable all Americans to achieve success in the 21st century, and serving as an advocate for state higher education leadership. For more information, visit

About Sova 

Together, we build the capacity for large-scale change. Our focus is not just on the systems and institutions themselves but on the incredible people behind them. By joining the Sova community, you become part of a collective force dedicated to achieving impactful results. We offer personalized support, tailored strategies, and hands-on guidance to help you navigate the path toward transformation. Our approach is grounded in collaboration, empathy, and a genuine understanding of your challenges. We provide the tools and resources needed to turn your vision into reality, ensuring that every step you take is purposeful and clear.

For more information, visit or contact Brian Sponsler,

About Ascendium

Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color and veterans. Ascendium’s work identifies, validates and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all. For more information, visit

SHEEO is hiring an Administrative Coordinator

About the organization

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) serves the chief executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education and their staffs. Founded in 1954, SHEEO promotes an environment that values higher education and its role in ensuring the equitable education of all Americans, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic factors. Together with its members, SHEEO aims to achieve this vision by equipping state higher education executive officers and their staffs with the tools to effectively advance the value of higher education, promoting public policies and academic practices that enable all Americans to achieve success in the 21st century, and serving as an advocate for state higher education leadership.

SHEEO is particularly interested in providing equal employment opportunities and creating a diverse work environment. Read more about SHEEO on our website:

About the position

The position will be based in Washington, D.C., and is eligible for a hybrid remote/in-office work schedule. Reporting to the Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff, the Administrative Coordinator is responsible for providing administrative, logistical, and office management support across the organization, including support for meeting and event planning, scheduling, and day-to-day operational needs of the organization.

Primary Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Provide administrative support to staff including scheduling, light research, project management, and team-building activities.  
  • Foster and sustain positive, collaborative relationships with colleagues, members, and external partners through effective communication and engagement.
  • Support our meeting and event planning functions, including registration processes; communicating with attendees and presenters; preparing and distributing materials; coordinating with vendors; and coordinating travel arrangements and reimbursements.
  • Serve as a liaison with the executive committee, establish and maintain professional relationships with SHEEO members, and exhibit a member-centered approach to tasks.
  • Provide day-to-day management of the office, including maintaining our physical space, office supplies, and inventory; managing vendor relationships; and coordinating with building management. Light lifting may be required.
  • Support hiring and onboarding processes, including advertising job descriptions, managing applications and applicant correspondence, scheduling interviews, and helping coordinate logistics of onboarding new hires.

Qualifications and Experiences

We are looking for a combination of the following qualifications, skills, and experiences:

  • At least two years of experience in a role with similar responsibilities (experience working at a membership organization, state higher education agency, or postsecondary institution a plus).
  • A self-starter with meticulous attention to detail and follow-through to ensure accurate and timely completion of tasks.
  • Strong team-building and interpersonal skills and the ability to develop professional relationships with staff, members, and external partners.
  • Expertise in Microsoft Office Suite and virtual meeting tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
  • Familiarity with event registration software (Cvent experience a plus), web-based platforms/software applications, and audio-visual equipment.
  • A passion for advancing educational and economic opportunity, diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and social mobility.

Location and Travel:

This position is based in Washington, D.C., and is eligible for a hybrid remote/in-office work schedule and will require periodic national travel.

Salary and benefits

Salary will be commensurate with candidate’s experience and demonstrated skill level, with a range of $55,000 to $65,000. SHEEO provides a comprehensive benefits package, including health, dental, and vision benefits; life and disability insurance; retirement plan contributions; educational assistance; and paid time off. 

Application Process:

SHEEO is not able to sponsor work authorizations, therefore applicants must be legally authorized to work in the United States. 

The application window has been extended to Friday, March 29, 2024. This job opening has closed.

SHEEO is committed to providing equal employment opportunities and believes that recruiting and developing a diverse and inclusive staff is vital to the success of the organization.  

SHEEO releases new FAFSA Simplification Guidebook and FAQ to help guide states through financial aid challenges

A new guidebook from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) was published online today to provide insights for state higher education agencies to navigate and understand both the benefits and implications associated with the change to a new simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in regard to state financial aid. 

The 2024-25 Simplified FAFSA, rolled out by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) at the end of December, includes a new needs analysis formula. This change requires states to make alterations in how they administer their financial aid programs, such as updating their financial aid processing systems or altering their respective aid formulas to determine state aid eligibility.

While every state administers its financial aid programs in a different way, this new guidebook serves to highlight:

  • changes to the new FAFSA and needs analysis formula, 
  • ways in which students and their families may be impacted, 
  • issues associated with the new FAFSA that state agencies and legislatures may want to consider, 
  • and examples on how the new needs analysis formula alters the eligibility distribution for state aid programs.

The new guidebook examines how state aid could be impacted by the new Student Aid Index. SHEEO examined the design of four different state aid programs: first dollar scholarships, last dollar scholarships, eligibility based on an EFC/SAI threshold or Pell Grant, and eligibility based on adjusted gross income.

The intent of the changes to the FAFSA is to lead to expanded Pell Grant eligibility and higher award amounts, which prior research has demonstrated will occur. However, certain students, especially those from families with multiple members in college or families with a farm or business, may experience a loss of federal and state aid eligibility.

“The updated FAFSA and new needs formula offer states an opportunity to really examine their financial aid programs,” said Rachel Burns, SHEEO senior policy analyst. “States may need to adapt their grant and scholarship programs to ensure they continue to maintain the goal of promoting college access and success.”

State higher education agencies are working to develop processes to award aid in a timely manner, but they are not anticipated to receive necessary FAFSA data elements from ED until mid-March. States will need to work with postsecondary institutions on communication strategies to inform students and their families that postponement in awards is due to the delayed release of the FAFSA.

The 2024-25 FAFSA delay and ongoing issues are causing frustration within the higher education community. SHEEO will continue to advocate for its members and share concerns with the U.S. Department of Education in pursuit of timely solutions to minimize confusion and hardship for students and families. 

On a new webpage with frequently asked questions, SHEEO will update states on how to troubleshoot known issues on the form and ways peer states have moved forward. 

Find the new FAFSA guidebook and a link to the FAQ webpage at