Public Policy Division

Civic Engagement Public Policy Division

NASPA's Public Policy Division was established to support the association' strategic goals and objectives to provide leadership in higher education through policy development and advocacy for students on important national issues. Major responsibilities include formulating a policy agenda for the association, developing responses to policy proposals, and helping to provide members with information concerning relevant legal, legislative, and other public policy topics.

Message from the Chair

Welcome to the NASPA Public Policy Division (PPD). Given the thrust of the PPD’s mission to “provide leadership in higher education through policy development and advocacy for students on important national issues,” the relevance and significance of our focus cannot be understated. There are myriad higher education policy issues with which our federal, state, and local leaders are grappling, and it is critical that NASPA members be informed and use our voices to help shape policy in ways that positively influence the student experience.

Members of the PPD Leadership Team meet once per month to review and discuss policy updates via a robust list compiled by our NASPA staff liaisons, Teri Hinds, Director of Policy Research & Advocacy, and Diana Ali, Assistant Director of Policy Research & Advocacy. Team members also share updates on policy issues from their own regions, systems, etc. As one would expect, policy issues cover a wide array of areas, but in general the topics fall within the five broad categories of the current PPD Agenda:

  • Student success and college completion;
  • Student safety and wellness, including financial and mental wellness and protections for trans students and victims of sexual assault;
  • Costs of higher education, student debt, and borrower protections;
  • Inclusive opportunities for access and success in higher education; and
  • Civic engagement and freedom of expression.

Related to the fifth topic on the agenda, civic engagement and freedom of expression, I am excited to be representing the PPD with a team of NASPA colleagues (viz., Diana Ali, Teri Hinds, Stephanie King, NASPA’s Director of Civic Engagement and Knowledge Community Initiatives, Erin Payseur Oeth, Project Manager for Community Engagement, University of Mississippi, and Kara Lindaman, Professor of Political Science, Winona State University) in a project centered on Free Speech and the Inclusive College Campus. Partnering with the Kettering Foundation, NASPA is working to develop materials for deliberative forums at higher education institutions around this topic, and we began by asking our Student Affairs colleagues a fundamental question: What concerns you about the topic, “free speech and the inclusive college campus?” Be on the lookout in 2020 for opportunities to access and utilize an issue guide on this topic, which will help you and your colleagues and students host deliberative forums on your own campuses.

The 2019-2024 NASPA Strategic Plan provides exciting opportunities for NASPA’s constituent groups to be involved in developing tactics to help actualize the plan’s goals. Organized around four broad categories -- Advocacy for Student Success, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice, Research and Scholarship, and Professional Development and Engagement -- the Strategic Plan holds much promise to inspire fulfillment of the promise of higher education for all students. The Public Policy Division is eager to support the plan through numerous initiatives, including but certainly not limited to annual conference sessions, blog posts, in-person and virtual town halls, podcasts, and social media engagement. In addition, we recognize and embrace potential synergies in the public policy space with other NASPA entities and events, including the Research & Policy InstituteCivic Engagement InitiativesNational Student Affairs Day of ActionNASPA Hill Days, and the work of various Constituent Groups.  

Dr. Brent A. Marsh, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, University of Mississippi


One of the best resources available to you is the wide range of professional development opportunities. This list contains both our “Hosted Events,” workshops and webinars that we plan and manage, and some “Related Events,” hosted by the NASPA Central Office or other NASPA Constituent Groups. To see a full listing of NASPA events, please see the Events page.

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Public Policy Division Blogposts



Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Data Center, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. Department of Education

IPEDS is a system of surveys conducted annually by the NCES. The surveys collect data on enrollments, completions, graduation rates, faculty and staff, finances, institutional prices, and student financial aid, and all institutions that participate in federal student aid programs are required to report data. The IPEDS Data Center allows users to compare institutional data, create reports, download data files, and access the IPEDS Trend Generator and IPEDS Table Library.

Knocking at the College Door, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)

WICHE’s signature report, Knocking at the College Door, forecasts high school graduation through the class of 2028 by state and race/ethnicity. The full report, state profiles, and custom data tables are available for download.

Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH), Division of Student Affairs, Penn State University

The CCMH is a research center comprised of over 140 college counseling centers and partners and  focused on providing accurate and current information about the mental  health of today’s college students. The CCMH is member-driven and serves the interests of mental health providers, administrators, and researchers. In addition to publishing survey instruments and annual reports, the CCMH shares data on case-by-case basis with researchers and practitioners. 


NASPA Foundation

The NASPA Foundation supports the discovery of new knowledge through research and innovation in the field of student affairs. This is achieved through a continued commitment to funding selected proposals as submitted annual to the Foundation.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The goal of the Gates Foundation Postsecondary Success program is to ensure that all low-income young adults have affordable access to quality postsecondary education that is tailored to their individual needs and educational goals and leads to timely completion of a degree or certificate with labor-market value. The Foundation’s priorities include: college readiness; personalized learning; performance measures; and research and advocacy.

Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation’s higher education initiative seeks to foster policy and institutional reforms that improve disadvantaged people’s access to and success in high-quality higher education. In the United States, their work focuses on establishing stronger links between two- and four-year colleges; creating robust tuition and financial aid policies geared to the needs of marginalized and low-income students; and scaling up effective academic support programs. The Foundation approaches this work primarily through leadership development; capactiy building and technical assistance; research and public policy analysis; and advocacy, litigation, and reform.

Lumina Foundation

The mission of the Lumina Foundation is to increase the proportion of Americans who have high-quality, college-level learning. The Foundation’s mission is defined by a specific goal: to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality college degrees, certificates, and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina Foundation grants focus on two imperatives: Mobilizing to Reach Goal 2025 and Designing & Building a 21st Century Higher Education System. 

Kresge Foundation

The Kresge Foundation Education Program aims to increase the number of college graduates in the United States that can fuel a new, education-led era of prosperity and help low-income and underserved people change the trajectory of their lives. Specifically, the Education Program focuses on expanding student access to higher education and promoting academic success particularly for historically disadvantaged students: low income, first-generation, African American, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American. The Foundation supports activities that: focus on geographic priority; involve networks, systems and groups of institutions; and improve productivity and innovation.


NASPA Research and Policy Institute

ACE Center for Policy Analysis

AEI Center for Higher Education Reform

Institute for Higher Education Policy

New America Foundation: Education Policy Program

Open Congress 

Public Policy Agenda