Washington, D.C.—In a survey distributed following the 2022 midterm elections, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) asked state higher education leaders about their top policy issues going into 2023. States face a multitude of higher education policy issues each year, with some topics consistently among the top priorities for policymakers while others represent emerging public policy concerns driven by the current higher education landscape. SHEEO’s new report details the top 10 state policy priorities for 2023 according to state higher education leaders. The report also includes additional rising issues—topics consistently making headlines and generating important conversations among the higher education community.
Economic and workforce development, along with the related issue of the K-12 teacher workforce, tied for the top two state policy priorities of SHEEOs. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape for workforce development, exacerbating many existing workforce shortages. SHEEOs noted significant unmet labor market demands in their states and the need for public higher education to demonstrate its value to stakeholders by meeting state workforce needs. On the teacher workforce, SHEEOs stressed the importance of high-quality K-12 teachers to student success, expressed their concerns over teacher shortages, and cited low pay, a lack of respect for the profession, and political agendas as contributing factors to the teacher shortage.
Rounding out the top five priorities are (3) state funding for financial aid programs, (4) state operating support for public colleges and universities, and (5) higher education’s value proposition. Other issues include declining enrollment and college affordability, tied for sixth, (8) public perception of higher education, (9) addressing equity gaps, and (10) college completion/student success. Rising issues outlined in the report include a focus on student health and safety and student basic needs, like food, housing, and childcare.
“While survey results and the top issues are not necessarily surprising, the state budget surpluses provide lawmakers with an opportunity to invest in higher education’s capacity to address workforce needs and grow the economy,” said Tom Harnisch, SHEEO’s vice president for government relations.
The 2023 legislative sessions present a unique opportunity for states to address many of the top issues outlined in the survey results. While not an exhaustive list, also included in the report are several examples of how states have implemented policies and programs that other states could consider replicating to tackle many of these issues.The full State Priorities for Higher Education in 2023: Survey of SHEEOs report can be found in the report at: https://sheeo.org/policy-issue-survey/.