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Higher Education Governance & Leadership


Individuals representing institutions, higher education systems, postsecondary sectors, government agencies, and the legislature play akey role in all stages of the higher education policy process and in leading higher education. By better understanding the individuals and organizations involved, we aim to understand the perspectives guiding the policy process and how variation in these features ultimately influence the success and implementation of policies and programs.

The Sheeo and Intermediary Organizations

While issues of higher education access, opportunity, and impact are hotly debated on the floors of Congress and in state legislatures, it is the state’s higher education executive officer (SHEEO) who is expected to be an innovative policymaker, an astute political actor, an all-seeing fortune-teller, and a rapid problem-solver. These professionals must achieve a balancing act between political agendas and academic freedom while ensuring that the institutions they represent are maximizing their contribution to the larger public good and preparing students to become contributing citizens. In this volume, scholars and practitioners come together to explore the position of the SHEEO. Chapters present historical investigations, original research, and reflections and advice for current and aspiring SHEEOs, their agency staff and boards, state policy leaders, and students of state policymaking and higher education. Each chapter ends with recommendations for the continuing study of, and attention to, the important role of the SHEEO.

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Becoming a Game Changer

Established in 2009, Complete College America (CCA) has emerged as one of the leading single-issue intermediary organizations advocating policy solutions to improve college completion in the USA. Although other entities that influenced the policy conversation at that time have ceased operation, CCA has maintained and, in fact, expanded its role in US higher education policy. Through a collective case study developed from archival data and interviews with CCA officials and respondents from three member states (Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas), this study examines the evolution of CCA as an organization and investigates how it has been able to challenge other actors within the higher education field. Findings suggest that CCA created and strengthened its influence through strategic identification of members, pointed communication, and intentionally aligning themselves with power brokers in both the completion sphere and targeted states. This study highlights the growing role and influence of intermediary organizations in higher education policy conversations and offers insights into how these types of organizations influence decisionmaking in state and national strategic action fields.

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A Rhetorical Analysis of Intermediary Organization Documents on College Completion Policy

Intermediary organizations play an increasingly important role in public policy related to higher education, particularly related to the completion agenda. This study addresses strategies employed by intermediary organizations to communicate to policymakers regarding college completion. Using rhetorical analysis, we examine 72 documents to deconstruct their arguments. Findings show that intermediaries employ the rhetorical elements of ethos, pathos, delivery, and idiom to present information and advocate preferred policy solutions. Importantly, organizations communicate messages differently based on their orientation toward the researcher or policymaker communities. Intermediary organizations aligned more closely with researchers rely more on empirical evidence and neutral tones, whereas organizations aligned more closely with policymakers utilize more idiomatic language, visually engaging document design, and nonempirical sources of evidence. Rhetorical analysis can enable researchers, intermediaries, and policymakers all to work more clearly and carefully in the higher education policy arena and, in so doing, strengthen the bridge between the two communities.

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State Higher Education Governing Agencies and the Knowledge Brokering Process: Investigating their Role as Multi-Facing Organizations in the United States

State higher education governing agencies in the United States are uniquely positioned
between the state government and public postsecondary sector. However, few studies
have considered how this organizational characteristic influences these agencies’ role in
the policy process. The current study seeks to contribute to this gap in the literature by
investigating the use of information in the policy process and the potential role of
statewide agencies as knowledge brokers. Through an examination of the state higher
education governing agencies in Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas, findings highlight the
influence of these organizations’ multi-facing position on the supply and demand of
information regarding statewide college completion-related policies. Grounded by
principal–agent theory, this analysis also contributes an emergent conceptual framework of the information flow process around state-level higher education policymaking in the United States.

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The Policy Filtering Process: Understanding Distinctive State Responses to the National College Completion Agenda in the United States

The United States has faced stagnant postsecondary education degree completion rates for over a decade. When coupled with improved educational outcomes in other nations, the one-time world leader in higher education attainment has precipitously declined in standing internationally. Coupling this reality with the need for a more educated workforce domestically led President Barack Obama to proclaim improving higher education completion rates a national imperative in 2009. Despite input from the federal government, due to the decentralized nature of American postsecondary education, individual states maintain primary responsibility for governance and policy decisions. Consequently, there has been a range of state responses to improving college completion. Through a comparative case analysis, this study considers a putatively homogenous region to investigate state-level factors that “filtered” the national college completion agenda to distinct responses in Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas.

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Last Updated: 5/8/23