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About NASH

Formed in 1979 as the National Association of System Heads for the purpose of seeking improvement in the organization and governance of public higher education systems, NASH – now the National Association of Higher Education Systems – serves as a forum for the exchange of views and information among its members and on leveraging the power of systems to advance innovation and change in public higher education.

Systemness, or the idea that the whole can be more than the sum of its parts, is the fundamental concept that drives our work. Rather than seeing systems as collections of disparate actors, we believe that systems can be coordinated actors that leverage their power to convene and facilitate, along with their governing and policy-making authority, to build collaborations to support students and campuses; rather than trying to mediate competitive actions.

NASH has defined a public higher education system as a group of two or more colleges or universities, each having substantial autonomy and headed by a chief executive or operating officer, all under a single governing board that is served by a system chief executive officer.

NASH systems include multiple four-year institutions and several also include two-year institutions. Together, public university systems educate approximately three-quarters of the nation’s students in public, four-year higher education, and a significant proportion of students seeking two-year degrees. How these systems are organized—that is, multiple institutions operating with a single system governing board and chief executive—makes them particularly well-positioned to tackle issues critical to the future of their states.

For cross-system initiatives, NASH mobilizes expertise within participating systems and partners with other organizations. In recent years, cross-system collaboration has focused on increasing student access and success in college, especially for low-income students and students of color.