2021 February MHEC news


Lumina Foundation Strategy Labs Support MHEC Virtual Opportunity on Higher Education Finance in the Post-COVID Era

Higher Ed Finance in the Post-COVID Era, Now’s our Chance to do this Right a report supported by the Lumina Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gate’s Foundations, was the topic of MHEC’s February 12 webinar, presented in partnership with The Lumina Foundation’s Strategy Labs.

“Higher education needs to be seen as part of the solution to getting our economies back up and running, an investment which requires strategic support and commitment,” says Susan Heegaard, MHEC president. “This session was designed to share approaches to financing higher education that highlights challenges faced by states and institutions, and the importance of putting the needs of those most adversely affected by the pandemic at the center of decision-making, setting them on a path for success in an economy that increasingly values postsecondary credentials for successful employment.”

Martha Snyder from HCM Strategists and Donnie Charleston from E Pluribus Unum, national leaders in higher education finance, provided a comprehensive view of the impact of Covid-19 on state budgets, higher education, unemployment, undergraduate enrollment, and inequities.

Speakers acknowledged ways the pandemic has significantly affected higher education finances and disproportionately hurt low-income students, and how states can best ensure more sustained and equitable recovery. They outlined five principles for postsecondary budget decisions:

  • Principle 1: Prioritize funding for institutions that can best serve Black, Hispanic, Native American, and low-income students and those institutions that provide timely opportunities for unemployed or underemployed individuals to reskill.
  • Principle 2: Protect and expand need-based financial aid through increased or reallocated state investment.
  • Principle 3: Support programs and strategies that advance students’ ability to complete credentials.
  • Principle 4: Expand resources and invest differently to drive economic growth.
  • Principle 5: Evaluate and improve system and institutional cost structures.

A panel of regional MHEC leaders shared what their states and institutions were facing and proposing. Panelists included Rep. Rick Carfagna (OH), Dr. Blake Flanders (KS), Rep. La Shawn Ford (IL), Dr. Kayla Hahn (MO), and Dr. Bill Pink (MI).

Breakout groups following the presentation and panel discussion shared these takeaways:

  • Higher education must focus on the dual pandemics of the virus and inequities, not just on COVID recovery. Higher education access and affordability are core to this work.
  • Higher education needs to align closely with workforce priorities and needs.
  • Broadband and technology access is a major barrier for rural access to higher education especially.
  • The uncertainty of the future requires us to increase our flexibility.
  • The pandemic accelerated our need to be more responsive and flexible. We need to permanently incorporate what we have learned.
  • This time in our country is a great opportunity for universities to model respectful discourse.
  • Higher education relies on the K-12 system to prepare students, so we need be deeply connected and aligned given the possible long-term impacts from distance learning.

Finally, the group issued a strong recommendation to gather again to focus on specific strategies and solutions. In response, MHEC plans to reconvene its commissioners and leaders in higher education in early March for a follow up webinar. “It was clear from the folks here that we are all hungry for ideas and solutions,” says Heegaard.

Access meeting materials and watch the recording from the  Higher Ed Finance in the Post-COVID Era.

MHEC Supports Planning for Missouri OER Symposium

MHEC is thrilled to have the opportunity to support the 2021 Missouri Affordable & Open Educational Resources (A&OER) Symposium, to be held during Open Education Week, March 3-5, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The Symposium will be centered around the idea of CARE, an acronym for Collaborating and Adapting/Adopting Resources for Equity. Katie Chock, MHEC's meeting and event manager, has been collaborating closely with the planning committee for the Symposium, ensuring registration and the platform for hosting the event all run smoothly.

Midwestern State Policies Related to Military-Connected Students and Competency Based Education and Learning

The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and MHEC were awarded a competitive grant from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) as part of its National Research Collaborative on Postsecondary Competency based Education and Learning initiative. This grant allowed NCHEMS and MHEC to conduct a policy scan of the 13 states participating in MHEC’s Multi-state Collaborative on Military Credit. In addition to researching what state policies exist related to the review of military-connected students’ Joint Service Transcript and other related military documents for the awarding of college credit via Competency Based Education and Learning, the researchers Sara Appel, associate director for policy initiatives at MHEC, and Gina Johnson, senior associate at NCHEMS, explored how these policies are interpreted by the state agencies involved with military-connected students in postsecondary education. They also shared their research questions and design along with results from this study. View Webinar Materials.


New Research Report:  The Digital Divide Among College Students: Lessons Learned From the COVID-19 Emergency Transition  

The pandemic has presented us with great challenges as well as opportunities. This report examines the digital divide – the gap between those who can and cannot access the Internet– on college students during the COVID-19 emergency shift to remote learning. Based on the results of several surveys conducted in the spring or summer of 2020, digital inequities are documented by race/ethnicity, family income, and residential setting. The survey results also indicate that digital inequities are related to college students’ academic experiences and outcomes during the COVID-19 period. An analysis of recent state legislation in the Midwest highlights key policy approaches to bridge the digital divide for college students and their communities.

Enhanced Graduate Credit Quest Site to Launch in March

The shortage of fully credentialed concurrent teachers has been a persistent and growing problem for many states. Since 2018 MHEC has worked with member states to address this serious situation. One strategy to address this problem which was identified early on was the creation of a searchable database to help teachers find the graduate courses they wish to take and to help graduate institutions access a large enough pool of teachers to make offering such courses worthwhile. MHEC partnered with the Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resources Alliance (NEWERA), to enhance a similar tool they had already created: Graduate Credit Quest. We are in the beta-testing phase of the website we have developed and will be launching the site in March so that institutions can use it to make teachers’ aware of the courses they offer. MHEC staff will contact and recruit institutional participants starting in March. For more information, please contact Jenny Parks , vice president.

State Team Work Begins on Setting Path Towards Credential Transparency for Midwest States

Exciting work on the MHEC and Credential Engine grant from Ascendium Education Solutions, Inc.  has started with the creation of the Midwest Credential Transparency Alliance (MCTA). Through a regional community of practice MCTA will help move states along a path toward credential transparency. Work of the MCTA is based on the premise that the easier and more transparent it is to access and use comparable information about credentials, the easier it is for people to find the most cost-effective way to identify the right education, skills and training, and find the best jobs. MHEC and Credential Engine have had initial meetings with the remaining five states (Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin) and look forward to additional collaboration with them  as well as continued work with the other seven midwestern states that have been involved with this effort.

Advisory Group Hears About New Methods to Indicate Student Learning

On February 10, members of MHEC's Comprehensive Learner Record Advisory Group heard a presentation introducing a new era of reliable and verifiable education and occupational records establishing recognition of courses, competencies and skills through electronic means. The presentation, New Ways to Represent Student Learning: The Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) was given by Giana Baker, associate director, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA); Tom Green, associate executive director for American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO); Natasha Jankowski, director at NILOA; and Amelia Parnell, vice president for research and policy for National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).

NC-SARA Launches Work Group to Address Policies Related to Branch Campuses

A working group has been launched by National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) to discuss and assist in resolving issues associated with SARA policy regarding branch campuses. Work began in late October 2020, and will wrap up in early April in time to submit a report and recommendations to the NC-SARA Board prior to the May board meeting. The working group includes a broad cross section of stakeholders from across the country and is co-chaired by Susan Heegaard, MHEC president, and Belle Wheelan, president of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission (SACSCOC) accrediting body.


Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) Program Assistance Grant Opportunity

The U.S. Department of Education will have applications available for the SRSA (ED-GRANTS-020421-002) grant on February 10, 2021, with an application transmitted date of April 16, 2021. The grant is to address the unique needs of rural school districts.

MHEC Annual Report
MHEC's 2019-2020 Annual Report to the Member States is available.


MHEC Welcomes New Commissioners

Tim Goodwin
State Senator
Nebraska Legislature
Term: 1/22/2021-1/8/2023

Mark Huizenga State Representative Michigan Legislature
Term: 1/1/2021-12/31/2022

John Cavanaugh
State Senator
Nebraska Legislature
Term: 1/22/2021-1/1/2023

Lynne Walz
State Senator
Nebraska Legislature
Term: 1/22/2021-1/1/2023

Mike Duffey
Senior Vice Chancellor
Ohio Department of Higher Education
Term: 1/29/2021-Serves at the Pleasure of the Governor

Jerry Cirino
State Senator; Vice Chair, Senate Workforce & Higher Education Committee
Ohio Legislature
Term: 2/10/2021-12/31/2022


Report Outlines Pandemic Challenges for Student Veterans
Inside Higher Ed | February 17, 2021

State Higher Ed Funding for Next Year Looks Like a Mixed Bag
Inside Higher Ed | February 16, 2021

The State of State Postsecondary Data Systems, Strong Foundations 2018
SHEEO | February 2021

Biden's Higher Ed Team Takes Shape
Inside Higher Ed | February 4, 2021

FHSU Launches Various Initiatives to Support Military Students
Diverse Military | January 29, 2021

Will the Guard’s Capitol Hill deployment count towards GI Bill benefits?
Military Times | January 22, 2021

[MHEC COVID-19 Resources MHEC recognizes the difficult time postsecondary institutions and states are experiencing in the Midwest and across the nation. 

Feedback is welcome on how MHEC might be helpful from a regional perspective to institutions and states.