MHEC News April 2024


There are many things to celebrate this month with the arrival of spring in Minnesota topping the list. We’ve visited nine of our MHEC states, to date, with three visits to go in the coming weeks - Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. My youngest child is graduating from college in Wisconsin this June and I’ve filled out the FAFSA for the eighth and final time! Speaking of FAFSA, we have some updates for you in this newsletter as well as a timely and exciting FAFSA summit planned for June. We continue to monitor all of the ongoing developments unfolding with FAFSA as well as other topics including negotiated rulemaking and professional licensure. Please check out each of our newsletter section updates to learn more.

  • Policy & Research: FAFSA Challenges; College Enrollment by Sex
  • Convenings: Get Certified by Creative Commons; Concurrent Enrollment Advisory Committee Welcomes HLC Staff, and Continuing Enrollments in Professional Licensure Programs after July 1
  • Contracts: Upcoming RFP-Next Generation Higher Education ERP Solutions
  • Programs: Negotiated Rulemaking; Licensure Discussions
  • Commissioner News: New Iowa Commissioner Alternate; State Visits

As always, our Compact welcomes your feedback and suggestions.

Susan G. Heegaard MHEC President


States Tackle FAFSA Challenges

Midwestern states are responding to challenges with the rollout of the new FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to ensure students have access to the financial aid they need to pursue higher education. Recent state and system initiatives include:

Illinois - In response to delays in the processing of FAFSA applications, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) extended its College Changes Everything Campaign until late February 2024. The campaign included hosting 600 financial aid application workshops around the state.
Kansas - The Kansas Board of Regents has made FAFSA assistance training available to 105 county extension agents, to assist students in FAFSA completion.
Michigan - Governor Whitmer has been actively engaged in raising public awareness about the importance of completing the FAFSA. She has visited graduating seniors in schools to discuss the significance of FAFSA completion and made FAFSA awareness a consistent messaging priority via television news media segments, press releases, and social media such as X and TikTok.
Ohio - Chancellor Mike Duffey of the Ohio Department of Higher Education has urged all college and university presidents to extend admissions application deadlines and enhance communication efforts with prospective students who are waiting for their FAFSA forms to be processed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Explore additional innovative strategies being implemented to support students in other states.


Policy & Research

Several Midwest States Meet or Surpass the National Benchmarks for College Enrollment by Sex

The latest update to MHEC's Interactive Dashboard shows that 66% to 84% of female and 56% to 74% of male young adults across Midwest states were enrolled or had completed some college in 2022, compared to an average of 71% of female and 60% of male young adults in the Midwest and 72% of female and 60% of male young adults nationally.

Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin ranked above the national benchmark in college enrollment for both female and male young adults. The female-male enrollment gap was smaller than the national benchmark in Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Dakota. In addition, the online dashboard shows that enrollment rates recently declined more for male than female adults in several Midwest states.

Differential economic incentives for college enrollment appear to be a key factor underlying sex-based postsecondary enrollment disparities. Specifically, men with just a high school diploma generally have better job and wage prospects than do their female counterparts, which may lower the relative expected value of a college degree among men.  

This indicator shows the percentage of all 18- to 24-year-old adults in the state who are currently enrolled in college or have completed some college credit or a credential by sex. Respondents were instructed to report their sex as either female or male (intersex was not presented as an option). The data source does not include information about the respondent’s gender identity (e.g., man, woman, non-binary, transgender).

Selected enrollment indicators are also available for MHEC states in the reports, Higher Education in Focus and State Performance Update.

 Enrollment by Sex, MHEC Newsletter April 2024 
Source: U.S. Census Bureau. (2022). American Community Survey one-year public use microdata sample.



Get Certified by Creative Commons
April 23, 2024
3:00 p.m. CT

Join MHEC and Jennryn Wetzler of Creative Commons (CC) for the webinar Get Certified by Creative Commons. Creative Commons is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to helping build and sustain a thriving commons of shared knowledge and culture. Learn more about how the certificate program can strengthen people's practical expertise in open licensing, copyright, and recommended practices in open knowledge and culture movements. Molly Ledermann, Washtenaw Community College faculty librarian and Michigan OER Network Steering Committee member, will describe her experience in the CC Certificate course, and how getting CC certified has helped her work in open education. Craig Finlay, OER and STEM librarian at the University of Nebraska Omaha Libraries, will describe his experience in the CC Certificate course and how he subsequently partnered with CC to develop a microcredential course, based on CC Certificate content, called Open Educational Resources for Librarians and Educators.


Concurrent Enrollment Advisory Committee Meeting Welcomes HLC Staff
April 29, 2024
3:00 p.m. CT

The next MHEC Concurrent Enrollment Advisory Committee meeting will welcome representatives of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) who will give the presentation HLC’s Credentialing Requirements: An Overview of a Recent Policy Change and Implications for Practice. These monthly collaborative meetings facilitate the sharing of state, system, and institutional responses, along with best practices, to address teacher supply concerns and ensure credit transfer for concurrent enrollment students, thereby assisting states, systems, and institutions in aligning with the HLC's new instructor qualifications policy for concurrent enrollment. Please contact Dr. Beth Ellie, MHEC associate director of policy initiatives, with any questions.

Continuing Enrollments in Professional Licensure Programs after July 1
April 30, 2024
Part 1: 10:00-10:30 a.m.; Part 2: 10:45-11:45 a.m.

The Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) will host Higher Education Licensure Pros for a special two-part webinar session Continuing Enrollments in Professional Licensure Programs after July 1 focused on the new Title IV certification procedures regulations that are effective July 1. Part 1: What Leadership Needs to Know is specifically geared for college and university leaders. With so many changes coming from the U.S. Department of Education, it is hard for higher education leaders to keep up. These new regulations significantly expand responsibilities for institutions around professional and occupational licensure programs. As a result, programs will need to limit enrollment in certain states, or revise curricula to meet specific licensure requirements, creating impacts across all institutions. Part 2: Implementation Challenges and Considerations will be specifically geared for college and university staff responsible for implementation. These significantly expanded responsibilities for institutions around professional and occupational licensure programs create many new compliance challenges, such as updating a student location policy, creating a written attestation process, and developing a research and curriculum comparison structure for determining if programs meet educational requirements.



RFP: Next Generation Higher Education ERP Solutions

MHEC is soliciting proposals for the Next Generation Higher Education ERP (enterprise resource planning) System of Systems (MHEC-RFP-04182024) to enhance technological capabilities across its 12 member states. This solicitation seeks innovative ERP solutions to improve institutional efficiencies and support higher education throughout the Midwest. Through competitive solicitation, MHEC aims to establish master agreements offering simplified negotiations and favorable terms, benefiting institutions by prioritizing their unique needs. Full RFP details will be available on April 18, on MHEC’s website. Proposals are due by May 30, at 10:00 a.m. CT. For more information or to request the RFP, contact Nathan Sorensen, director of government contracts, at (612) 677-2767.    



Update on Negotiated Rulemaking and Concerns Related to State Authorization; MHEC Seeks Input of Region

There are recent changes being proposed which could significantly affect State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) member states and affiliated institutions throughout the country and our region. In early March, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) convened the third session of negotiated rulemaking, where discussions centered around program integrity and institutional quality. The session concluded without consensus on Issue Paper 2: State Authorization, which had undergone revisions. This outcome allows the ED to draft and potentially finalize their own regulatory framework. It is crucial to note that any new regulations will be subject to public feedback before potentially being implemented in July 2025 at the earliest.

The deliberations have significant implications for SARA member states and affiliated institutions. Key points of contention include:

  1. The 500 Rule: Criteria excluding institutions from reciprocity based on student enrollment.
  2. Applicable State Laws: Regulations concerning the closure of educational institutions.
  3. Complaint Process Requirements: Proposals for enhancing and modifying the complaint procedures.
  4. Revocation of Reciprocal Authorization: Defining the circumstances and procedures for revocation.

Additionally, the proposed regulations suggest that bodies governing state reciprocity agreements should be composed exclusively of representatives from state regulatory and licensing agencies, enforcement bodies, and offices of attorney general. This is a notable shift from the current structure of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), which includes a broad spectrum of higher education experts from its status as a private 501(c)(3) organization.

In response, NC-SARA staff are actively engaging with their board, state regulators, SARA-affiliated institutions, and higher education leaders to refine their approach to the ongoing negotiations with the ED. Their efforts are focused on incorporating feedback from a diverse set of stakeholders to better shape their strategic response.

Susan Heegaard, MHEC president, is gathering state higher education leaders from public and not-for-profit institutions within MHEC to hear their insights and discuss the implications of these proposed changes during a meeting on April 22 at noon CT. She will be joined by Rob Anderson, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, who served as a negotiator and will share additional background and his thoughts on potential repercussions related to negotiated rulemaking. Results of this conversation will be used to develop a response to ED from MHEC. For more information or if you have questions, please contact Sara Appel, M-SARA director, at (612) 677-6778.


MHEC Holds Licensure Discussions for Individual M-SARA States and Institutions

Midwestern-State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (M-SARA), in collaboration with the Higher Education Licensure Pros (HELP), has been offering comprehensive overviews of the impact of upcoming Federal Title IV Regulations that are effective on July 1. These regulations (34 CFR 668.43 and 34 CFR § 668.14) along with SARA Policy (v. 21.1 § 5.2) mandates that each postsecondary education institution must certify upon initial enrollment that any program preparing students for licensure or state certification meets the educational requirements of both the state where the institution is located and the state where the student intends to seek licensure and employment after graduation.

By July 2024, institutions are required to:

•    Identify impacted programs.
•    Develop processes to restrict enrollments from regions where the institution’s program does not meet local licensure requirements.
•    Obtain written attestations from prospective students in states or territories where educational prerequisites are unmet.
•    Update public disclosures on their websites, among other compliance measures.

HELP has been addressing queries and leading discussions on the intricate challenges of implementing these new mandates. To date, more than 370 participants from Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin have engaged in these discussions. In the upcoming weeks, representatives from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska are scheduled to join these vital conversations. For more information or if you have questions, please contact Sara Appel, M-SARA director, at (612) 677-6778.

Commissioner Appointments     

David Ford
Bureau Chief
Iowa College Aid
Division of Higher Education
Iowa Department of Education
Term: 3/28/2024 to 7/1/2025

State Visits     

MHEC Visits Remaining States

MHEC state visits with state higher education, legislative, and executive branch leadership continue with Ohio on April 24, Michigan on May 8-9, and Wisconsin on May 14-15. Commissioners and leaders in member states will meet with Susan Heegaard, president, and Rob Trembath, chief operating officer and general counsel, along with additional MHEC staff including Breanne Hegg, vice president; Jenny Parks, vice president; Beth Ellie, associate director of policy initiatives; Samra Asghedom, strategic and executive initiatives manager; and Jonathan McNicholes, stakeholder engagement and convening assistant. Staff visited North Dakota on April 9-10. Additional meetings were held with administration from the University of North Dakota, North Dakota University System, North Dakota State University, and and North Dakota State College of Science.

2024 North Dakota - State Visit
ND State Visit - (Top L to R): Meeting at North Dakota State University (NDSU) Bruce Bollinger, NDSU vice president for finance and administration; Chris Wilson, NDSU chief of staff, Rebecca Bahe, NDSU Director of the Career and Advising Center, Susan Heegaard, president, MHEC; Rob Trembath, chief operating officer and general counsel, MHEC; and Breanne Hegg, vice president; MHEC. Bottom Left (L to R) Jason Beehler, North Dakota governor's chief of staff, visits with Ms. Heegaard, and Mr. Trembath. Bottom Right (L to R): Rep. Cindy Schreiber-Beck and Rep. Brandy Pyle.


Team Updates

Connect with MHEC Staff at Spring Conferences

Nathan Sorensen, director of government contracts, will be exploring the latest innovations in analytics and data-driven decision making at the SAS Innovate Conference from April 16-19. Deb Kidwell, director of technology initiatives, will attend the CUPA-HR Spring Conference on April 21-23 to explore the latest trends in HR data and analytics, technology, AI, and workforce analysis. Beth Ellie, associate director of policy initiatives, will attend the OERwest Network Convening on April 25-26. The two-day OERwest Network Convening features speakers from around the nation who will share best practices, approaches, and processes that facilitate the advancement and scaling of OER. Jenny Parks, vice president, will join other grantees from the Hewlett Foundation for their meeting April 29-May 3. MHEC has received three grants from Hewlett for its work with open educational resources and will be joining other grantees in Atlanta to discuss the impact of their work effort and the organization. Susan Heegaard, president, and Sara Appel, director of M-SARA, will attend the NC-SARA Spring Board Meeting on May 1-3, in Washington, D.C. Ms. Appel will also attend the National Association of State Chief Administrators (NASCA) 2024 Annual Leadership Conference on May 14-17.


Articles and Resources of Interest

‘Game-Changing Crisis’: Lawmakers, Experts Vent FAFSA Frustrations
Inside Higher Ed | April 11, 2024

Libraries program saved Husker students $1.7 million in first two years
Nebraska Today | April 8, 2024

Preventing Big College Enrollment Declines Means FAFSA Completion Support This Spring and Summer
National College Attainment Network | March 28, 2024

Distance education via online learning may be in a for a huge shake-up due to this proposal
University Business | March 26, 2024

Lumina Foundation Awards $3.1 Million to Help Streamline Admissions Process for Underserved Students
Campus Technology | March 19, 2024