Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration (MPA)


Public Administration


Universities and colleges -- Oregon -- Planning, Higher education -- Aims and objectives -- Oregon




When the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) was first convened in the summer of 2012 its first topic of conversation among its members was, “why we here, and what are we supposed to be doing?” The Commission was a body created by legislation but convened with no formal authority, no clearly defined role, no staff, and no budget. The state education agencies such as the Oregon University System (OUS) and the Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD) were barely paying attention. The Commission members were all distinguished education professionals and student activists with a range of experience and expertise, but not household names.

No longer does the HECC question its role. Only one original member of the Commission is still serving (Vice Chair Betty Duvall), and the HECC is now acknowledged as the sole state level authority governing (or “coordinating”) all of state higher education, meaning all seven state universities and all seventeen community colleges. Many of the governance functions of the OUS chancellor’s office have been distributed to independent boards (chosen and ratified by the Governor and legislature), and the CCWD has been subsumed within the HECC, no longer an independent state agency with its own policy authority. In the intervening two years, a series of bills passed by the Oregon legislature had conferred nearly all the policy-making authority for state funded higher education on this formerly toothless Commission. HECC now has a staff of over 20 (more than forty if the staff from the other agencies that have been absorbed by HECC are counted) and an annual budget of $3.8 million. HECC’s chair, Tim Nesbitt, and executive director, Ben Cannon, are two of Governor John Kitzhaber’s closest advisors on education, which as much as anything signals this Commission’s importance. In 2012 almost no one expected the HECC to last, much less become the state’s hub for higher education policy.

The purpose of the research and discussion that follows is to take a broad look at the policy and legislation currently being enacted to discover its origins, theoretical backgrounds, and speculate on the future of Oregon higher education under this new framework.


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Faculty Advisor: Craig Shinn

This is the final research paper.

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