Strategic Initiatives

The National Association of System Heads (NASH) is the association of the chief executive officers of America’s 52 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 52 CEOs who come together both in informal settings and through collaboration on a few highly focused, voluntary initiatives. NASH is staffed by a staff director and, for the cross-system initiatives, mobilizes expertise within participating systems and partners with other organizations with relevant expertise.

In recent years, cross-system collaboration has focused on increasing student access and success in college, especially for low-income students and students of color.

Student Access & Attainment

Access to Success Initiative (A2S)

The changing demographics of the college-going population, and the realities of persistent access and attainment gaps, make on-going attention to reductions in attainment gaps a central element of any strategy to increase attainment. The Access to Success Initiative (A2S) is a voluntary effort among NASH systems committed to setting clear goals to close the historic gaps in college access and success between students of different racial and economic backgrounds. Launched in 2007, this voluntary effort, conducted in partnership with the Education Trust, brings together participating system leadership teams to learn from one another and outside experts on critical action steps, including setting goals, building public support and momentum for meeting the goals, identifying and mounting powerful action strategies, and publicly reporting progress on a common set of metrics.

The Access to Success Initiative (A2S) is a voluntary effort among NASH systems committed to setting clear goals to close the historic gaps in college access and success between students of different racial and economic backgrounds. Launched in 2007, this voluntary effort, conducted with the support of The Education Trust, brings together participating system leadership teams to learn from one another and outside experts on critical action steps, including setting goals, building public support and momentum for meeting the goals, identifying and mounting powerful action strategies, and publicly reporting progress on a common set of metrics.

The goal of the initiative is to cut in half by 2015 the gaps that separate low-income and minority students from their peers, both in terms of access to postsecondary education and in terms of successful completion. Twenty-four systems have agreed to participate in the initiative by publicly reporting baseline and progress data on common metrics and to share their collective resources and expertise through working groups. Collectively, A2S systems enroll more than three million students—almost 40 percent of undergraduates attending public four-year colleges and universities and 20 percent of those attending all public two-year and four-year colleges.

This initiative is about system change, not about more programs. Each of the systems bears the costs of implementing its own change strategies. However, outside resources are critical to allow the participating systems to gain access to experts in the field and to share with and learn from one another in ways that make success more likely. Two foundations Lumina Foundation for Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have provided grants to support the cross-system collaboration.

Resources

View the System Profiles

Access to Success Baseline Report

Access to Success Baseline Report Technical Appendix

Implementing Common Core Standards

Common Core Postsecondary Collaborative (CCPC): Equipping states and their postsecondary systems to implement the Common Core State Standards. NASH has joined with the Education Delivery Institute (EDI) and the National Governors Association (NGA) in a new collaborative to support states and state systems in fostering deep postsecondary involvement in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Resources provided by the William and Flora Hewlett and Lumina Foundations are available to initiate this effort in three states, with the expectation that successful models will be built which can be expanded to other states in subsequent efforts.  The RFP for proposals to participate in the initiative may be found at http://db.tt/A0ulswwq

Applications are due to the National Governors Association by Friday, July 6, 2012.  Questions should be sent to Jane Wellman at jane@nash-dc.org

Resources

Center for Education Policy Evaluation of CCSS Implementation

Education Trust Brief for NASH on the Common Core

NASH Issue Brief on Attainment Goals

Improving System Governance

Public systems are tasked with finding the right balance between state needs and institutional interests. Accomplishing this in an environment of growing public need and greater financial privatization requires new leadership skills and structures, beginning at the Board level and extending to work with institutions. NASH advances this agenda by working with member institutions to identify emerging practices for system leadership, including attention to:

  • the organization of system offices;
  • building Board capacity for leadership, agenda setting and oversight;
  • data systems and metrics for improved internal and external accountability;
  • improving institutional attention to public and policy perceptions about colleges and universities;
  • strategies for enhancing communication with multiple stakeholders; and
  • professional development for leadership required with a specific focus on system-level skills.

Partner organizations in this effort include the Association of Governing Boards (building governing Board capacity), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (system role in institutional research).   

System Role in IR.  NASH has received a two-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for a two-year project on the public system role in institutional research.  Work will be done in partnership with the Association for Institutional Research, and will begin with a survey of IR functions and staffing in system offices, and focus groups of both system and campus personnel about information collection and analysis.  A project description may be found below; for more information contact Jane Wellman at the NASH office. 

Resources

NCHEMS/NASH Survey of System Offices April 2012

Detailed appendices for NCHEMS/NASH Survey

Original survey with questions as submitted to systems

University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education State Review Project, a collaboration between Penn and the National Center for Higher Education and Public Policy, has conducted intensive reviews about state higher education policy structures and capacities in five states:  Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Texas and Washington.  Reports and commentary about national patterns are available on their proejct website at http://www.gse.upenn.edu/irhe/srp

Recent public opinion polls about higher education:

April 2012 College Board public opinion about education in 'swing states'

March 2012 Pew Policy Center on the importance of education

December 2011 AAC&U 'policy influentials' opinion of higher education's civic education role

Spring 2011 Pew Policy Center public opinion and college presidents' opinions about higher education

 

Essays on systems and governance.....

NASH, with AGB and AASCU, The Leadership Dynamic in Public College and University Systems

Joe Burke, Nine Principles for Serving the Public Good in Times of Changing Governance

National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, State Leadership Capacity

Aims McGuinness, The States and Higher Education, presentation to University of Wisconsin Special Committee on System Structures, 2011

Aims McGuinness, A Successful Model for Restructuring

Neil Smelser, The Dynamics of American Universities, 2012

Paul Lingenfelter, Characteristics of an Effective State Higher Education Executive

D. Bruce Johnstone, Role, Scope, Mission and Purposes of Public Multicampus Systems

John Aubrey Douglass, University Devolution in the Age of Markets

Presidential Leadership for Public Purpose, National Crosstalk, May 2011

AASCU Issue Brief on College and University Mergers, July 2012

 

 

Sustaining Finances

Rapid changes in public funding, coupled with growing demands for access and student success, are putting great pressure on public systems to find new models of finance.  NASH work on sustaining finances, done in partnership with the Delta Cost Project, seeks to identify new models for funding public institutions, including attention to cost management and ways to increase productivity, ways to align strategic priorities with resources, metrics for improving decision-making about costs and revenues, and models for using data in making decisions about costs and revenues.    

Resources

William Bowen's "Tanner Lectures" - Will technology solve the cost disease in higher education?

Learn about the Delta Cost Project

Jane Wellman's Testimony to the House Committee on Education and Workforce

NASH Issue Brief on Performance-Based Funding

A framework for strategic finance

The "new normal" in finances of public higher education

The 'broken cost model'

Complete College America brief on Value-Added Funding

Complete College America/Dennis Jones Brief on Performance-Based Funding

 

Economic Development & Job Creation

States need public systems to help them find ways to improve the connection between higher education and state economic development and job creation.  Public investments in higher education will not be sustainable if states are not growing their economies, creating new jobs, and translating new research into the innovations that support continued economic development. System offices are uniquely well positioned to frame this agenda, through strategic connections between the institutions and the state's employers and investors.  No longer confined only to public research universities, state needs for economic development and job creation also touch on ways that institutions educate students for emerging state markets, connecting research to regional economic needs, and finding new educational models that meet new needs for talent.  Partner organizations in this effort include the Council of Graduate Schools and the Professional Science Masters' Administrators, the network of institutions involved in the advancement of the Professional Science Masters' programs.

 

Resources

Visit Professional Science Masters

Visit NPSMA

Visit NASH-PSM

 

Delta Data