Reform Network Brings Rising State and Local Stars to National Higher Ed Policy Debates

Higher Learning Advocates announces inaugural members of its Champions Network, a new corps of bipartisan leaders applying breakthrough thinking on student success to federal policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 8, 2018) — Today, Higher Learning Advocates announced the creation and launch of its Champions Network, a new group of higher education reform leaders who have joined together to advocate for stronger student outcomes in postsecondary education. The first cohort of the newly-formed network reflects a diverse and distinctive group of institutional, state and local leaders who are advancing innovative practices and policy solutions that are significantly improving outcomes for students.

The Champions Network will engage federal policymakers through briefings, events and other activities designed to enrich federal policy conversations with the successful student-focused outcome policies and practices the Champions have implemented in their states, institutions, and regions. The initial members of the Higher Learning Advocates Champions Network are (in alphabetical order):

  • Tony Carvajal, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber Foundation
  • José Luis Cruz, President of Lehman College of the City University of New York
  • Barbara Damron, Secretary at the New Mexico Department of Higher Education
  • Joey Hatch, Member of the Tennessee Board of Regents and Retired General Manager of Skanska Building USA, Inc.
  • Mike Krause, Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • Michele Siqueiros, President of the Campaign for College Opportunity
  • Michael Sorrell, President of Paul Quinn College

Learn more about how these leaders are driving student success by clicking through each Champions name above.

“With critical decisions being considered about the future of American higher education, today’s students have much at stake,” said Julie Peller, executive director of Higher Learning Advocates. “Through their work with institutions, states and regions, these Champions are shining a light on how we can shift to a new system of higher learning for today’s students that focuses on outcomes, connects learning to workforce needs, and ensures that all of today’s students can access a quality education at an affordable price. We are excited to connect their important work and experiences with federal policy.”

Representing different regions and professions, each Champion brings a strong focus and results in improving student outcomes through leadership positions in higher education, business and public policy. The purpose of the Champions Network is to deepen federal policy conversations around five critical issues in higher education policy by connecting their personal stories and work with federal policymakers and influencers.  These five issues are: clearer pathways between learning and employment; greater affordability; higher quality; stronger outcomes; and better data.

“The perception of the average American college student is not correct, and we must ensure these shifting demographics are reflected in the policy development process,” said Mike Krause, Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. “The notion that 18-year-old freshman serve as the foundation for how we view college and universities has to change. As we make policy, both at the federal and state level, we need to place working parents, student veterans, and other non-traditional learners at the center of critical decisions regarding higher education accessibility and affordability.”

For more information on the Higher Learning Advocates Champions Network, visit to see the Champions’ stories and download the Champions Network Policy Principles.


Higher Learning Advocates is a non-profit advocacy organization working to shift federal policy from higher education to higher learning—education and training beyond high school that leads to a degree, credential, or employment. While more students are participating in higher education than ever before, there is a vast and growing disconnect between federal policy and the needs of today’s students, employers, and communities. We are working toward federal policies that create transparent pathways to success, incentivize innovation, protect students and taxpayers, and improve outcomes.

CONTACT: Ted Eismeier,