The National Association of System Heads (NASH) is the association of the chief executive officers of America’s 44 public university systems.
All of the systems include multiple four-year institutions, and several also include two-year institutions. Together, public university systems educate approximately three-quarters of the nation’s students in public, four-year higher education and a significant proportion of students seeking two-year degrees. How these systems are organized—that is, multiple institutions operating with a single system governing board and chief executive—makes them particularly well positioned to tackle issues critical to the future of their states.
Unlike most other national education organizations, NASH functions more nearly as a “network” among the 44 CEO’s who come together both in informal setting and through collaboration on a few highly focused, voluntary initiatives. Further, in recognition of the important role played by the senior leadership team of each system, NASH has expanded its engagement efforts to support Chief Academic Officers, Chief Budget Officers, Chief Government Relations Officers, and Directors of Institutional Research.
NASH is staffed by an Executive Director and Deputy Director who mobilize the collective capacity and expertise within member systems and partners with other organizations with relevant experience.
Reframing Systems (Transformational University Systems)
Public university systems are critical social and economic drivers that leverage the collective capacity of their campuses in myriad ways, particularly during times of rampant change. Systemwide coordination efforts offer many benefits to member campuses, including: greater efficiencies, coordination and quality, academic integrity, differentiation, insulation from competition, and a sharp and collective focus on the needs of students and communities.
Demographic changes and lagging levels of higher education attainment among young adults have converged to crystallize the importance of postsecondary systems in sustaining national competitiveness during the 21st century. Enrollment levels of non-traditional, low-income, and underrepresented minority students continue to grow at our colleges and universities. Moreover, the educational attainment of our working population continues to decline relative to other industrialized nations, compromising our national competitiveness in a global economy.
The evolution of our student populations and a stagnant national level of educational attainment have served as a bellwether of our national need for dramatic increases in postsecondary completions. This presents unique challenges and opportunities that systems are best positioned to navigate due to their ability to: provide shared services, set system-wide priorities, drive innovation, and coordinate alternative pathways that include online learning.
Due to their ability to serve as laboratories for innovation, hubs for analysis and gatherers of organizational and environmental intelligence, systems are able to create economies of scale and scope that are essential to meeting that shared responsibility, as well as current and future demands. To that end, systems are evolving to meet contemporary demands in key areas that serve as NASH’s strategic initiatives, which are listed below.
In recent years, cross-system collaboration has focused on targeted, evidence-based student success intervention strategies to magnify the impact on student outcomes across many institutions. These approaches have emphasized increasing student access and success in college, especially for low-income students and students of color, given the moral and economic imperatives surrounding the completion agenda.