SHEEO Welcomes Jessica Duren as Strategic Communications Director

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) welcomes Jessica Duren as its new strategic communications director.

Duren will be a part of SHEEO’s Washington, D.C., office and will develop, implement, and maintain a comprehensive and multi-faceted communications strategy for SHEEO and its membership. She will provide oversight and direction for SHEEO’s internal and external communications, including website, social media, print publications, and email marketing.

Jessica Duren Headshot
Jessica Duren

Before joining SHEEO, Duren served as assistant commissioner for communications & outreach for the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development. As a member of the senior leadership team, Duren was instrumental in helping to develop the department’s strategic plan in 2021. She set the direction for the department’s marketing efforts to share the importance of all education beyond high school and the impact of education and training for today’s workforce. Duren has served Missourians in various communications roles with the department since 2014. Before that, she was a copy editor and reporter for the Jefferson City News Tribune and the editor of three weekly papers in Northeast Iowa. Duren holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Missouri State University.

ABOUT THE STATE HIGHER EDUCATION EXECUTIVE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) is the national association of the chief executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education. Founded in 1954, SHEEO serves its members as an advocate for state policy leadership, a liaison between states and the federal government, and a vehicle for learning from and collaborating with peers. SHEEO also serves as a manager of multistate teams and as a source of information and analysis on educational and public policy issues. Together with its members, SHEEO advances public policies and academic practices that enable Americans to attain education beyond high school and achieve success in the 21st-century economy.

More Than 100,000 Students Experienced An Abrupt Campus Closure Between July 2004 and June 2020

SHEEO and National Student Clearinghouse Research Center Investigated the Impacts of 467 College Closures on Student Outcomes

BOULDER, CO and HERNDON, VA – (Nov. 15, 2022) – More than 100,000 students out of more than 143,000 or 70% experienced their institution closing without adequate notice or a teach-out plan, known as abrupt closure, from July 2004 to June 2020. Poor outcomes in subsequent enrollment and completion were associated with abrupt closures, according to a new report released today by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Most higher education institutions that closed were for-profit colleges. Out of the 467 closed institutions investigated:

  • 49.9% or 233 were from the private for-profit two-year sector;
  • 28.1% or 131 occurred from private for-profit four-year sector;
  • 17.8% or 83 came from the private nonprofit four-year sector; and
  • 4.3% or 16 were private nonprofit two-year and four were public four-year institutions.

Almost 12,000 campuses closed over the period analyzed, according to the Postsecondary Education Participants System.

The report, A Dream Derailed? Investigating the Impacts of College Closures on Student Outcomes, is the first of a series of a joint research endeavor between the two organizations to quantify the impacts of college closure on students’ subsequent postsecondary enrollment and completion.

“This study shows that any college closure is damaging to student success, leaving too many learners – more than half – without a viable path to fulfilling their educational dreams,“ said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “But the extremely poor outcomes for students who experienced abrupt closures are particularly worrisome.”

“This research confirms that college closures have a detrimental impact on the enrollment and completion outcomes of all students and are most pronounced when colleges close abruptly without forewarning or student protections,” said SHEEO President Rob Anderson. “The particularly poor outcomes are especially harmful for minoritized students of color enrolled in the for-profit sector. These results reinforce calls for improving state authorization processes and strengthening the financial monitoring of institutions to prevent, prepare for, and respond to college closures.”

Abrupt closure in the private, for-profit four-year sector had the most adverse impact on reenrollment rates: 42.4% vs. 70.1% for orderly closures. When closure was orderly, reenrollment rates were nearly identical across the private four-year sector. Completion gaps by race/ethnicity were exacerbated among abrupt closures, with larger gaps in attainment than among orderly closures, especially for Hispanic and Black students.

Overall, less than half (47.1%) of students who experienced a closure subsequently reenrolled at a postsecondary institution. Of those who reenrolled, 36.8% earned a postsecondary credential, likely their first-ever undergraduate credential, and an additional 10.4% remained enrolled as of February 2022. The remaining 52.9% left without earning a credential after reenrollment. As a result, students who experienced a closure likely add to the population of students who have some college, but no credential.

Other report specifics include:

  • Students who reenrolled within one to four months were the most likely to earn a credential (47.6%). The odds of earning a credential doubled if students reenrolled within one year of closure, while those who stopped out for more than one year were the least likely (18.7%).
  • Hispanic and Black students with abrupt closure experiences were far less likely to earn a credential post-closure compared to their counterparts with orderly closure experiences (26.4% vs. 43.0% for Hispanic; 25.3% vs. 39.4% for Black).
  • Students who experienced closure were more likely to be women (54.6%), white (25.0%), and 30 years or older at the time of closure (39.0%).
  • Reenrollment rates were highest among women (49.0%), white students (62.5%), and traditional college age students (54.0% for 18-20; 46.6% for 21-24).
  • Students who experienced closure at private nonprofit and for-profit four-year institutions were most likely to reenroll in the same sector. Alternatively, students who experienced closure at a private for-profit two-year institution likely reenrolled at a community college.

This series of three publications examining the impacts of college closure on student outcomes is supported by Arnold Ventures.

About SHEEO

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 www.sheeo.org.

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes. The Research Center analyzes the data from more than 3,600 Title IV eligible degree-granting postsecondary institutions, which represent 97% of the nation’s postsecondary enrollment as of fall 2020. Clearinghouse data track enrollments nationally and are not limited by institutional and state boundaries. To learn more, visit https://nscresearchcenter.org.

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New SHEEO Report: State Approaches to Base Funding for Public Colleges and Universities

In collaboration with NCHEMS, SHEEO released a report describing and classifying the approach each state takes to funding base operations at public colleges and universities. With sector-level data, state examples, and estimations of the proportion of state funding allocated through each approach, this report seeks to fill in gaps in our collective understanding of how states funding higher education. It is our hope that the data shared in this report will lead to additional research, consideration, and evaluation of base plus, institutional requests, input-driven formula funding, and special purpose funding across the states.

Ben Cannon Named Chair of State Higher Education Executive Officers Association Executive Committee

Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission Executive Director Ben Cannon was named the chair of the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Executive Committee.

Before serving as chair-elect, Cannon served the SHEEO Executive Committee as treasurer during 2020-21.


“We are excited to have Ben Cannon serve as our Chair this year,” said Dr. Robert Anderson, president of SHEEO. “I have had the opportunity to get to know Ben through his service on the Executive Committee, and look forward to working with him as we advance a higher education agenda that provides opportunity for all students and advances the core tenets of the states and institutions that serve them.”

The Executive Committee is responsible for shaping SHEEO’s federal priorities and strategies and for leading its communications with Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, and other federal agencies. 

“I’m so pleased for this opportunity to chair the SHEEO Executive Committee and to work with my counterparts around the country, as well as with the exceptional staff at SHEEO,” said Cannon. “It is critical that state higher education leaders collaborate on issues that directly impact our goals for student success, equity, and more. I look forward to helping ensure that SHEEO continues to serve the needs of its member organizations through research, convenings, and national leadership that enhances the role and promise of higher education.”

SHEEO, the national association of the chief executives of statewide governing boards and coordinating boards for postsecondary education, works to assist its members and states in developing and sustaining excellent systems of higher education.

Cannon has served as the executive director of the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission since 2013. In this position, Cannon oversees state funding allocations, policy-setting, and coordination for Oregon’s higher education system, including community colleges and public universities. Cannon is a former teacher, state representative and education policy advisor to the Governor. Elected three times to the Oregon House of Representatives (2006-2011), he chaired House committees with jurisdiction over environment, energy, and water policy. From 2003 to 2011, he taught humanities at a middle school near Portland. He earned his BA from Washington University, St. Louis, and attended Oxford University, England, on a Rhodes Scholarship, earning graduate degrees in comparative and international education and philosophy, politics, and economics. ​

The full SHEEO Executive Committee is as follows:

Officers:

Chair: Ben Cannon, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission

Past Chair: Blake Flanders, Kansas Board of Regents

Chair Elect: Sarah Tucker, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission

Treasurer: Clayton T. Christian, Montana University System

Members:

Brian Bridges, New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education

Shannon Gilkey, Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner

Harrison Keller, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Dennis Olson, Minnesota Office of Higher Education

Ginger Ostro, Illinois Board of Higher Education

Shana Payne, Delaware Higher Education Office

Stephanie Rodriguez, New Mexico Higher Education Department

Aaron Thompson, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) has released its Fiscal Year 2021 SHEEO Membership Report

SHEEO represents the executive officers of statewide governing and coordinating/policy boards responsible for overseeing higher education in their state. SHEEO has 61 members representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The annual Membership Report uses data from its members to provide an in-depth look at SHEEO agency resources such as staff size, operating budgets, and functions performed. The report further captures demographic data of SHEEOs, SHEEO agency senior leaders, and SHEEO agency staff. The SHEEO Membership Report was expanded for FY21 to include data about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the addition of more agency functions to better encapsulate the duties of the SHEEO agency. Key findings of the latest Membership Report include:

  • On average, governing boards have a higher operating budget per FTE staff than coordinating/policy boards, yet for the first time since measuring, both governance types have the same median staff sizes (60 FTE).
  • Governing boards tend to perform a wider variety of surveyed functions, especially those regarding staffing/personnel matters and state budgetary and fiscal policy. Coordinating/policy boards tend to take on more state-level planning and strategizing while also administering statewide grant and loan programs.
  • Comparatively, overall agency staff has a more diverse demographic makeup by race, Hispanic or Latino origin, and sex than agency senior leadership and the SHEEO positions.
  • SHEEO agency responses to the COVID-19 pandemic involved dealing with an abrupt transition to remote work and reduced budgetary and staff capacity. Forty-one percent of member agencies experienced some sort of budget cuts, and 13% of agencies were forced to lay off staff.  
  • The COVID-19 pandemic obligated SHEEO agencies to take on new, unforeseen duties. New responsibilities included routinely convening institutional leaders statewide to triage solutions, overseeing the disbursement and use of education-related federal COVID-19 relief funds, and aiding their states in COVID-19 response measures.

SHEEO President Robert Anderson said, “As states continue to respond to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, tough decisions regarding budgets, staffing, and purpose have been and will continue to be made. The data in this report can help illuminate a path for SHEEO agencies to ensure their staffing is able to accommodate new changes and current responsibilities. These data will help our members draw comparisons to like agencies and develop new policies, procedures, and practices moving forward.”

The Membership Report website features additional resources for analysis, including downloadable agency-level data and dynamic Agency Profiles for an individualized lens.

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About the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association 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.

SHEEO Announces Excellence Awards Recipients

Association recognizes leadership, dedication, and innovation in state higher education policy and administration.

Boston, MA – The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association has announced the organization’s 2022 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 and, in turn, states’ economic and social prosperity.

  • The Exceptional Leader Award recipient is Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
  • The Exceptional Agency Award recipients are the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and Minnesota State.
  • The David L. Wright Memorial Award recipient is Clantha McCurdy, senior deputy commissioner, access and student financial assistance for the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

Reflecting on the SHEEO Excellence Awards, Dr. Robert Anderson, president of SHEEO, said: “SHEEO is so pleased to be able to celebrate and acknowledge the hard work of all of our state higher education executive officers, their agencies, and agency staff members. The efforts of these individuals and agencies help address the needs of students and promote equitable educational outcomes. Their hard work and commitment should be commended. It is our honor 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, Peter Blake, is the director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Blake has been involved in higher ed—and in service to Virginia—for most of his adult life. His career spans time in both the executive and legislative branches, having served as an associate director at SCHEV; a fiscal analyst (higher ed focus) for the House Appropriations Committee; the deputy secretary of education (for higher education), the secretary of education under Gov. Mark Warner; and the vice chancellor of workforce development services for the Virginia Community College System, before returning to SCHEV as interim agency director and being selected SCHEV director in 2012.

During Blake’s tenure as SCHEV director, the Council and its staff have produced two statewide strategic plans to place Virginia as the best state for education by 2030. As important, Blake led efforts to require that public institutions’ strategic plans and six-year operating plans reflect the goals of the state plans. Also, during Blake’s directorship of SCHEV, Amazon selected Virginia for its second headquarters, based significantly on the strength of higher education and talent in the commonwealth. And, in Virginia’s past two biennial budgets, appropriations for higher education have set new records. 

Blake’s success is attributed mainly to his leadership style. His colleagues describe him as an expert in navigating constituencies and balancing needs and expectations through a remarkable ability to build and maintain trust. According to Sen. Janet Howell, chair of the Virginia Senate’s Finance and Appropriations Committee and a member of its Education and Health Committee, who has interacted with Blake for decades, “Peter Blake is a trusted advocate for higher education and has been invaluable in providing advice to the legislature as the Director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. He is an expert in crafting guidance that considers the competing needs of various stakeholders, including state level policymakers, higher education institutions, and students and parents. I am delighted to hear that he is being recognized as a recipient of the SHEEO Exceptional Leader Award and congratulate him on this extraordinary honor.”

Ken Ampy, chair of the SCHEV Council, said, “Peter Blake has had a distinguished career in higher education that is not rivaled by many. He has served Virginia tirelessly for years, ensuring that our future citizens, entrepreneurs, and leaders have the quality of and access to the best education the Commonwealth has to offer. The SCHEV Council is honored to have served beside him. We proudly join SHEEO in recognizing Mr. Blake as recipient of the Exceptional Leader Award. Bravo Peter, well deserved.”

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 jointly selected the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and Minnesota State this year.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) and Minnesota State’s strong partnership is critical in expanding access to postsecondary education for Minnesotans and strengthening the workforce pipeline. Minnesota State often takes a lead role in implementing new grant programs that break down financial barriers for students. Recent successful partnerships include the Next Generation Nursing Assistant initiative and the Minnesota Future Together grants, programs made possible by an investment of American Recovery Plan funds.

For the Next Generation Nursing Assistant initiative, OHE sought to address staffing shortages in the health care field and meet a goal set by Governor Tim Walz to recruit and train 1,000 new nursing assistants. After securing a $3.5 million investment in January 2022, Minnesota State took on the process of setting up training programs, and within three months, 1,300 Minnesotans were recruited and trained as nursing assistants. Prior to this initiative, Minnesota State had stepped up to train 400 National Guard members as nursing assistants. These National Guard members were deployed throughout the state to serve in veterans’ homes and long-term care facilities. The Next Generation Nursing Assistant initiative has become a new model for how the state can address staffing shortages in high-need career areas.

The Minnesota Future Together grants are a two-year grant program that covers the cost of tuition and fees for students pursuing a credential in high-need careers such as education, business, industry and technology, health care, STEM, and public service. Minnesota State partnered closely on the initial roll out of the grant, devoting countless hours of staff time and resources to promoting the grant and identifying eligible students. As a result, 1,485 Minnesota State students saw the full cost of their tuition covered in the spring 2022 semester.

These examples are two of the many ways the partnership between OHE and Minnesota State is benefiting Minnesotans and directly impacting the state’s educational attainment goal of having 70% of Minnesotans, ages 25-44, complete a credential by 2025.

“I am honored that the work we do to offer equitable access to higher education for all Minnesotans while serving as the state’s workforce engine has received this distinction from SHEEO,” said Chancellor Devinder Malhotra. “The guidance, counsel, and partnership we receive from OHE and Commissioner Olson help us increase the effectiveness and impact of our work. On behalf of the 14,000 employees of Minnesota State, thank you for this honor.”      

“I appreciate the close working partnership OHE has with Minnesota State,” Commissioner Dennis Olson said. “This recognition is the result of critical investments in higher education made under Governor Tim Walz, as well as the incredible leadership of Chancellor Malhotra at Minnesota State. Our office can always rely on Minnesota State to step up at a moment’s notice to help spearhead new initiatives and grant programs. Together, we are working to support the whole student, from providing transportation and housing assistance to mental health supports to grants and scholarships that make it possible for anyone to enroll in postsecondary education. To have this work, and specifically, our partnership, honored in this way is very humbling. Thank you for this recognition.”

“Both the Office of Higher Education and Minnesota State are incredible assets to our state,” Governor Tim Walz said. “From the state grant to innovative grant programs, OHE’s work is breaking down financial barriers while also building the workforce pipeline necessary for Minnesota to thrive. Minnesota State is a vital partner in this work, offering a variety of credentials throughout the state. I am grateful to Commissioner Olson and Chancellor Malhotra for their leadership, and I look forward to collaborating with them to support the next generation of Minnesota’s workforce.”

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.

Dr. Clantha McCurdy, this year’s David L. Wright Memorial Award recipient, began her career in public service at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education 29 years ago. Over her long career, she has held several positions spanning from the director of student financial assistance, vice chancellor for student financial aid, and currently, senior deputy commissioner, access and student financial assistance. Prior to her time in Massachusetts, Dr. McCurdy served as the director of financial aid with the Kansas Board of Regents.

In managing the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance, Dr. McCurdy serves as the staff contact with the Executive Office of Education and the Board of Higher Education on financial aid policy and related issues. It is also noteworthy that she is the primary liaison/representative for the Board of Higher Education and the Department of Higher Education on state, regional and national committees, initiatives, and projects related to financial aid policy. Dr. McCurdy’s work is not limited to student financial aid issues. The recent change in her title to senior deputy commissioner, access and student financial assistance illustrates her evolving role in the MA DHE. She now spearheads several access and diversity initiatives. Most noteworthy is that she is the lead staff liaison to the development of a comprehensive Student Support Services effort.

One example demonstrating her initiative and understanding in the public policy arena is that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when enrollments declined, job loss grew among students, and MA higher education institutions were fundamentally disrupted, Dr. McCurdy worked with state and federal agencies to allow college students to be beneficiaries of the federal SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). She packaged a letter to students that included information on financial assistance, FAFSA completion, and participation in SNAP and sent it out to over 90,000 students in Massachusetts. It turned out to be a significant initiative benefitting students during difficult times.

Carlos Santiago, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and Dr. McCurdy’s nominator, shared, “I could not complete this letter without highlighting Dr. McCurdy’s characteristics of empathy, unwavering support for students, and exceptional leadership over her large staff. The DHE is fortunate to have such a talented member of our administration with experience garnered through her many years of tenure. She is very deserving of the 2022 David L. Wright Award.”

Ebony Marsala, president of the Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA), shared, “Clantha is so passionate in her desire to get financial aid funds in the hands of students that need it. She is dedicated to a life of service and enthusiastic about her work. Clantha is a true living legend of financial aid. Her leadership and passion precede her throughout Massachusetts, the community, and beyond.”

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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. For more information, visit https://sheeo.org.

CLDE Coalition Receives a $550,000 Grant to Accelerate College Students’ Civic and Democracy Learning Nationally

The Civic Learning and Democracy Engagement (CLDE)Coalition—in which SHEEO is a lead partner—has received a significant grant from The Endeavor Foundation to make college students’ civic learning and democracy engagement inclusive, equitable,  high quality and expected. 

Through a series of national “planning and action forums,” policy leaders and educators will advance strategies for making students’ democracy learning a priority in its own right, while showcasing CLDE’s bonus benefits to completion, equity, and students’ gains in practical, career-related skills.  The forums also will showcase new evidence about students’ gains from civic learning and community-based projects.

The CLDE Coalition is working in partnership with leaders in dozens of national and state-based organizations, including state systems, the accrediting commissions, and organizations that have been pace-setters in building support across the United States for making civic inquiry and problem-solving part of the college curriculum.  You can learn more about the Coalition’s vision for civic and democracy learning here

New Report Finds that Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020 Economic Recession, and a Steep Enrollment Decline, State Funding to Public Colleges Surpassed Expectations and Increased 4.5% Above Inflation in Fiscal Year 2021

Generous federal stimulus funding protected state revenues and directly supported higher education, reducing states’ need to cut funding during the pandemic and short economic recession. However, sharp declines in student enrollment and net tuition and fee revenue signal continued upheaval for public higher education revenues. In the midst of this uncertainty, the SHEF report provides a comprehensive look at trends in higher education revenues in fiscal year 2021.

BOULDER, Colorado —

In fiscal year 2021, a 4.5% increase in per-student state and local education appropriations for public institutions marked the reversal of decades-long trends in higher education revenues. The U.S. entered a short recession in fiscal year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past, enrollment increased rapidly during and following economic downturns, while state funding decreased and tuition revenue rose. The latest State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) report finds that fiscal year 2021 defied many post-recession trends: As enrollment dropped, state funding increased and tuition revenue declined.

  • Historically, enrollment increased sharply during economic recessions and would level off or decline during economic recoveries. However, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 3.0% drop in student full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment from 2020 to 2021. This loss of 323,952 students marks the tenth straight year of enrollment declines and is the largest decline in net FTE enrollment since the start of the SHEF dataset in 1980.
  • State funding typically fluctuates with the economic cycle. In the year after each previous recession since 1980, education appropriations per FTE enrollment declined. For the first time, in 2021, this trend did not continue: Inflation-adjusted education appropriations increased $400 per FTE student in the last year, reaching $9,327 per student.
  • In response to previous state funding declines, net tuition revenue increased for many years. Net tuition and fee revenue per FTE has grown 56.6% over the last 25 years but has declined for the last three years following recent increases in state funding. After a 3.2% decline in the last year, in 2021, public institutions received $6,723 per FTE in net tuition and fee revenue. This year marks the second-largest ever decrease in inflation-adjusted net tuition revenue per FTE.

In large part, the increase in education appropriations was made possible due to generous federal stimulus and relief funding that flowed to states in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] All but five states allocated federal stimulus directly to higher education. Without these funds, education appropriations per FTE would have increased just 2.0% from 2020 to 2021. Had FTE enrollment held constant and had states not directed federal stimulus funding toward higher education, education appropriations would have declined 1.0% this year.

In addition to these higher-level conclusions, the fiscal year 2021 SHEF report includes a full exploration of state- and sector-level higher education revenues and FTE enrollment trends. Key findings from the report include:

  • Enrollment declines were concentrated in the two-year sector. Public FTE enrollment at two-year institutions has declined 6.1% since 2020 and 8.1% since 2019. On the other hand, FTE enrollment in the four-year sector has declined only 0.9% since 2020 and 0.6% since 2019. Two-year sector enrollment took a larger hit than four-year enrollment in 43 states.
  • Federal stimulus funding was a key aspect of the strong growth in education appropriations. In 2020, federal stimulus funding for public institutions accounted for 1.3% of total education appropriations. In 2021, this amount increased to 3.6% ($335 per FTE). Two-year institutions received $214 per FTE in federal stimulus for public operating in 2021, and four-year institutions received $288 per FTE.
  • The gap has closed between two-year and four-year public education appropriations. Unlike in prior years, two-year institutions received 5.4% more in education appropriations per FTE than four-year institutions in 2021. Although two-year institutions received much less in state operating appropriations and state financial aid, local appropriations made up for this gap.
  • Financial aid continued to rise at a faster rate than institutional funding. Inflation-adjusted state public financial aid continued to increase sharply in 2021, rising 8.8% and reaching an all-time high of $921 per FTE. These funds made up 9.9% of all education appropriations, the largest proportion ever.
  • Public institutions in more than half of states collected less tuition revenue than they did five years ago. Net tuition and fee revenue per FTE declined in 72% of states between 2020 and 2021 and in over half of states since 2016. Declines in the last year were worse in the four-year sector: net tuition revenue per FTE declined 1.7% at two-year institutions and 4.8% at four-year institutions.
  • Total revenue rose slightly, thanks entirely to federal stimulus funding. Total education revenue increased 1.1% in 2021, reaching an all-time high of $15,959 per FTE. Excluding federal stimulus, total education revenue declined 0.3%. Additionally, total revenue is only at a record high in 18 states and varies substantially by institution type—four-year institutions had 1.51 times the total revenue of two-year institutions.
  • Continued increases in education appropriations and declines in net tuition revenue have reduced the proportion of total revenue financed by students. The student share decreased by 1.9 percentage points following the fiscal year 2020 recession, reaching 42.1% in 2021. At two-year institutions, the average student share was less than a quarter (21.8%). At four-year institutions, the average student share was over half (51.6%)

As these findings demonstrate, fiscal year 2021 defied several long-term trends in higher education finance and showed positive growth in education appropriations. However, net tuition and fee revenue did not increase enough to keep up with inflation for the third straight year. This continued decline in tuition revenue puts greater pressure on states not to cut funding to public higher education in the coming years. When federal stimulus funds run out, states will face difficult budgetary decisions, and higher education may face cuts in some states.

SHEEO President Robert E. Anderson shared, “Increases in state support for higher education demonstrate a growing commitment in many states to fund their public systems of higher education. We are proud to see the headway states have made in restoring prior funding cuts to higher education. We know that many of these investments were made possible by federal stimulus funding, and while federal stimulus funds serve an important purpose in stabilizing state revenues, they should not be considered a replacement for long-term state investments. States must continue prioritizing higher education in the years ahead to ensure that institutions are able to serve our students.”

“With strong state revenues and declining enrollment, now is a crucial time for states to make long-term, sustained investments in public higher education. These investments can increase student affordability and access at our colleges and universities and expand the reach of higher education to those not traditionally served. Additional investments in higher education will provide greater individual opportunity, expand the talent pipeline, and increase the prosperity in every state.” said SHEEO Executive Committee Chair Blake Flanders.

While these findings are crucial to understanding the broad strokes of national finance trends in higher education, it’s important to note that national trends mask considerable variation across the states. “The trends presented here are not reflective of the story in every state. While only 10 states saw funding declines this year, 29 states have yet to reach funding levels seen prior to the Great Recession. In those states, the national narrative of continued increases may not represent their reality,” said Sophia Laderman, associate vice president at SHEEO and lead author of the report. “Even more, there are inequalities in the total revenue public institutions have to educate their students. We know that state funding and institutional revenue impact student outcomes, and the negative impacts of low and disparate 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. The SHEF website also includes individual state profiles and an additional report on state effort and capacity to fund higher education. In the coming months, SHEEO will publish additional issue briefs on capital appropriations, performance-based funding, tuition and FTE enrollment by residency status, the impact of federal Pell Grants on net tuition revenue, and the sources and uses of higher education federal stimulus funding.

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About the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO)

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association 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.


[1] Federal stimulus funding allocated to states due to the COVID-19 pandemic is included in education appropriations and total education revenue throughout the SHEF report. Federal stimulus funding contributed to the education appropriations increase in two ways. First, federal funds that protected state revenues and covered additional costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession reduced the need to redirect funds from higher education to other budget areas during the pandemic. Second, federal funds given to states and used for higher education operations boosted education operating appropriations.

SHEEO Welcomes Casey McCoy-Simmons and Dillon McNamara as State Policy Interns

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) welcomes Casey McCoy-Simmons and Dillon McNamara as state policy interns.

Casey McCoy-Simmons Headshot
Casey McCoy-Simmons

At SHEEO, Casey will work on the state higher education finance (SHEF) project, SHEEO’s tuition, fees, and financial assistance survey, and the creation of several issue briefs on higher education affordability and finance. Prior to her role at SHEEO, Casey was an education and policy research intern at the Colorado Department of Higher Education and continues in her role as a graduate fellow for Whiteboard Advisors. She is a Ph.D. student in higher education at the University of Denver with research interests in equity, student success, and college affordability. Casey’s current research focuses on state policy discourses and open educational resources (OER). 

Dillon McNamara Headshot
Dillon McNamara

At SHEEO, Dillon will work on the state higher education finance (SHEF) project and the creation of several issue briefs on higher education affordability and finance. Prior to joining SHEEO, Dillon worked as a special assistant and policy analyst at the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, where he helped advance college access and affordability initiatives in the state. He most recently worked as a policy coordinator in the New Jersey Office of the Governor, focusing on education and health policy. Dillon graduated in 2018 from The College of New Jersey with a B.A. in political science. Currently, Dillon is pursuing a master’s degree in public affairs from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

ABOUT THE STATE HIGHER EDUCATION EXECUTIVE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION

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. For more information, visit https://sheeo.org.

SHEEO Announces the Promotion of Kelsey Heckert to Data Manager

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) today announces the promotion of Kelsey Heckert to data manager. She will lead SHEEO’s initiatives related to data analysis, data quality, and data management.

Headshot of Kelsey Heckert
Kelsey Heckert, Data Manager

Since joining SHEEO as a data analyst in 2019, Heckert has contributed significantly to the organization’s capacity to analyze large data sets, develop data visualizations, and communicate data and research results. Prior to her tenure at SHEEO, she served as a senior portal analyst and longitudinal data analyst for Michigan’s Center for Educational Performance and Information. Heckert holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan.

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) is the national association of the chief executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education. Founded in 1954, SHEEO serves its members as an advocate for state policy leadership, a liaison between states and the federal government, and a vehicle for learning from and collaborating with peers. SHEEO also serves as a manager of multistate teams and as a source of information and analysis on educational and public policy issues. Together with its members, SHEEO advances public policies and academic practices that enable Americans to attain education beyond high school and achieve success in the 21st-century economy.