January 11, 2023
The American Council on Education, higher education’s top lobby, named Wednesday a replacement for Terry Hartle, a prolific and well-known policy guru who led the organization’s government relations efforts for nearly three decades.
Jonathan Fansmith, assistant vice president of government relations, will take over Hartle’s senior position Feb. 1. He currently heads ACE’s advocacy in areas such as congressional spending and reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the major federal vehicle for postsecondary ed policy.
Notably, in recent years, Fansmith spearheaded efforts to secure around $78 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding, money widely considered to have insulated colleges from more egregious institutional budget cuts during the pandemic.
Fansmith will be charged with representing the policy interests of many American colleges, a tall order given their often competing priorities and needs.
He takes over this work during upheaval within the federal government. A slim Democratic majority in the Senate and Republican one in the House all but ensures continued gridlock over comprehensive policy packages.
The strife has been on full display over the last several weeks, as the House devolved into chaos trying to elevate Kevin McCarthy as speaker, which it only managed to do after 15 attempts.
For colleges, congressional paralysis would mean most major policy changes stem from executive action. The Biden administration has mapped out an ambitious regulatory agenda, intending to issue proposed rules on topics like accreditation and distance learning.
The makeup of Congress also dampens chances that lawmakers will reauthorize the Higher Education Act. This has been toward the top of ACE’s wishlist for some time, as the last comprehensive rewrite occurred in 2008.