Leading into the Future: Challenges and Opportunities

Higher education is New England’s most critical sustainable resource. The region’s governors knew that over 65 years ago when they founded the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE). Today, NEBHE promotes greater education opportunities and services for the residents of New England and its more than 250 colleges and universities. It works across the six New England states to help leaders assess, develop and implement sound education practices and policies of regional significance; to promote regional cooperation and programs that encourage the efficient use and sharing of educational resources; and to strengthen the relationship between higher education and the economic well-being and quality of life in New England.


The New England Board of Higher Education advances equitable postsecondary outcomes through convening, research and programs for students, institution leaders and policymakers.


Our vision is that everyone in New England will have lifelong access to affordable, high-value postsecondary education.

Strategic Priorities

The New England Board of Higher Education Board of Delegates adopted these strategic priorities in March 2023:

  • Affordability: Advance innovative, strategic alliances to increase affordability and financial sustainability.
  • Equity: Expand equity-focused practices throughout postsecondary education.
  • Alignment: Expand connections between postsecondary education and high-demand talent needs.

What We Do

NEBHE plays a number of key leadership roles that make it unique in its ability to serve the New England states and to contribute to higher education issues nationally:

  • Policy Leadership and Dialogue: NEBHE engages policymakers at the highest levels in the six New England states, including governors and their education advisors; legislators; state P-12 and higher education commissioners; leaders at public and independent colleges and universities; as well as industry.
  • Raising Awareness: NEBHE draws attention to key issues related to higher education that are important to the region’s stakeholders—catalyzing awareness, analysis, discussion and policy change.
  • Leadership Convener and Bridge Builder: NEBHE regularly convenes top leaders and decision-makers from P-12 and higher education, industry, government and the nonprofit sector—creating the critical cross-sector conversations that lead to change, collaboration, alignment and innovation.
  • Regional Collaboration Platform: NEBHE develops and executes collaborative, multistate projects and programs that maximize cost savings, expand resource efficiency, promote innovation, support policy adoption and forge cross-state alignment and integration. NEBHE’s expert staff and notable network of state, regional and national collaborators lower the cost and increase the impact of collaborative work among multiple states, partners, and entities.
  • Capacity Builder: NEBHE provides multiple professional development and training opportunities to key leaders in education, government and business. It launches innovation-oriented projects that build best practices, cutting-edge tools and expertise to support policy and program transformation.
  • Innovation Accelerator: NEBHE launches innovative experiments and pilot projects. It accelerates and supports the adoption of new education models across the region’s diverse institutions and stakeholder organizations.
  • Consultant and Advisor: NEBHE conducts policy research, analysis, technical assistance and advising on state and institutional policy and program issues. It has a reputation for providing neutral, unbiased appraisals of key issues, topics, policies and proposals.
  • Program Developer and Manager: NEBHE has extensive experience in creating and managing multi-party collaborative projects/programs, including: proposal development, grant cultivation and management, fiscal agency, project management, implementation and evaluation.

Our History

NEBHE was founded in 1955, when six visionary New England governors – realizing that the future prosperity of New England rested on higher education – committed their states to the shared pursuit of academic excellence. Soon thereafter, NEBHE was approved by New England’s six state legislatures and authorized by the U.S. Congress.

Much has changed since our founding: New technologies have transformed our workplaces, schools, and homes – and postsecondary education has become a prerequisite to economic prosperity, social mobility, and civic engagement. Yet the importance of higher education to the regional economy remains as critical as ever. New England’s economy and quality of life depend on the quality and diversity of our region’s extraordinary higher education resources.

A sample of NEBHE’s work through the years on behalf of New England’s educators, legislators, policymakers—and students and parents:

1955: The New England Board of Higher Education is established to implement the New England Higher Education Compact, expand educational opportunity and foster cooperation among the region’s colleges and universities.

1957: NEBHE establishes the New England Regional Student Program, enabling New England students to pay a lower tuition rate at out-of-state public land-grant universities within New England if they pursue certain academic programs that are not offered by their home state’s public institutions. The RSP would invite community and technical colleges in 1967 and state colleges in 1972, and later transition to the name Tuition Break.

1979: NEBHE creates the Commission on Higher Education and the Economy of New England, comprising college presidents, labor officials, professors, bank executives, publishers and business leaders. It is the first of several NEBHE commissions to hold conferences and release publications on diverse issues such as biotechnology, distance learning, international competitiveness, the legal profession, human capital and higher ed retirement plans.

1986: NEBHE begins publishing its quarterly journal, Connection: New England’s Journal of Higher Education and Economic Development. In 2007, the journal is rebranded as The New England Journal of Higher Education, and in 2010, moves entirely online at www.nebhe.org.

1993: NEBHE creates the New England Technical Education Partnership, bringing together educators and other professionals to improve New England’s two-year technical education programs, which ultimately advances “problem-based learning.”

1999: NEBHE and the John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston conduct The Future of New England survey asking 1,000 New England opinion leaders and 1,000 New England households their views on pressing public policy issues, regional economic prospects and opportunities for interstate action in New England.
2002: NEBHE initiates a series of three conferences addressing key issues and challenges in workforce development, culminating in a policy report titled Building Human Capital: A New England Strategy, which recommends steps to improve science and math teaching in New England schools, expand adult literacy programs and reform community colleges.

2003: NEBHE launches the New England Higher Education Excellence Awards to honor New England individuals and organizations who show exceptional leadership in behalf of higher education, public policy or the advancement of educational opportunity.

2006: NEBHE launches its College Ready New England initiative to encourage more New England students to prepare for, enroll in and graduate from New England colleges and universities.

2012: NEBHE and the Davis Educational Foundation convene more than 400 academic, philanthropic and education leaders in a series of discussions to explore innovative strategies identified by regional leaders to address cost and affordability issues challenging the region’s institutions and its students. NEBHE then works with the foundation to launch the Higher Education Innovation Challenge.

2015: NEBHE launches the New England component of the national State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, or SARA, funded by generous grants from the Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Accredited degree-granting institutions in a SARA state that offer distance education courses can then seek approval from their state to participate in SARA. NEBHE now coordinates SARA for all six New England states, as well as New York and New Jersey.

2017: NEBHE launches the Commission on Higher Education & Employability. Chaired by Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, the Commission brings together employers and higher education leaders, as well as policy leaders, to ramp up efforts aimed at bolstering the region’s workforce future.

2021: Founded the North Star Collective, a group of 13 inaugural regional colleges and universities that are committed to supporting higher education institution leaders in their transformative work and creating spaces that nourish and uplift BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) faculty. In 2022, the partnership expanded to 16 institutions with the Collective offering a Faculty Fellowship, roundtables for chief diversity officers and webinars.

2022: To meet the burgeoning demand for tech talent and keep Connecticut’s workforce competitive, the Tech Talent Accelerator was created to engage the state’s higher education ecosystem, including the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU) and independent higher education institutions. Each sector and institution play a critical role in preparing graduates for the workforce, and in reskilling and upskilling current workers. This initiative is leading the development of aligned skills and credential pathways through new or refreshed programs of credentials by postsecondary institutions to meet current and emerging skills needs.

2022: Saved more than 9,100 New England residents $64.8 million on their annual tuition bills, an average of $8,595 per student, through our Tuition Break program, which now offers more than 2,400 academic programs in specialized fields of study, such as Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, Robotics Engineering, and Agroecology.