Washington, D.C., June 25, 2008—The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) Board of Directors today announced Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., as the nonpartisan global research and policy center’s new president, effective Sept. 8, 2008. Cooper was selected after a six-month nationwide search following the departure of the organization’s founder and former president* last December.
“Michelle has dedicated her entire career to ensuring equal educational opportunities for all people, particularly for historically underrepresented groups, and firmly believes it is a ‘moral and social imperative,’” said Kathy Isaacson, chairperson of the IHEP board. “This confident idealism makes her the perfect match. With a commanding presence and fresh perspective on a variety of postsecondary education issues, Michelle is poised to continue IHEP’s influence in both national and international policymaking circles.”
Cooper, 35, is an emerging and respected leader in the postsecondary community with extensive knowledge of higher education policy, with special focus on issues of finance, diversity, and college access and success for underserved populations. She comes to IHEP after serving as deputy director for the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (Advisory Committee) at the U.S. Department of Education. In this role, Cooper interacted with policymakers about federal, state, and institutional programs of postsecondary assistance and provided nonpartisan advice and counsel to Congress and the Secretary of Education on student financial aid policy. These responsibilities closely align with Cooper’s new tasks at IHEP, which include directing the organization’s unique research and programmatic activities to help increase access and success in postsecondary education and to inform key decision makers who shape public policy and support economic and social development.
“I approach my new responsibilities with a great deal of enthusiasm and optimism. Under my leadership, IHEP will remain a highly respected organization that strives to ensure greater access and success for low-income, minority, and other underserved students,” said Cooper. “At IHEP, we will continue to inform policymaking at all levels and develop innovative solutions to society's most persistent educational challenges.”
Before joining the Advisory Committee, Cooper held various leadership positions at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Council for Independent Colleges, and King's College. She is the 2002 recipient of the National Education Association's Excellence in the Academy New Scholar Award. Cooper is also a Global Policy Fellow, which allows her access to policy developers and researchers from other countries on key higher education policy issues.
A native of Charleston, S.C., Cooper received her B.A. from the College of Charleston, a M.A. from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park.
*Editor’s Note: In January 2008, IHEP’s founder and former president Jamie P. Merisotis was named the new president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation for Education. IHEP Senior Associate Thomas D. Parker, Ed.D., was quickly tapped by the organization’s board to become the interim president until a nationwide search produced a permanent successor to Merisotis.