|Gregory G. Fitch, Ph.D., was named executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education in July, 2006, having served as a state higher education executive
officer (SHEEO) in two other states (Missouri and Idaho).
Dr. Fitch has served in chancellor and president roles in three community college systems and
as the founding president of the Utah College of Applied Technology – an institution established to promote economic development through the creation and
support of a qualified workforce.
He holds a Ph.D. in administration, curriculum and instruction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a M.A. in English from Emporia State University and a B.A. in
English with a minor in sociology and education from Washburn University in Topeka.
The Kansas City, Missouri native is a Vietnam War Veteran who initially began his career after military service in public law enforcement in the greater Kansas City
area. He entered the field of education as a public school teacher and has taught classes ranging from elementary to college level.
Since his appointment, legislation has been successful in securing additional funds for the Alabama Student Assistance Program (ASAP). Appropriations grew from $1.7
million serving 1400 students in 2006-07 to more than doubling the student load with a $4.4 million allocation for 2007-08.
The functions of a coordinating board for higher education are multi-faceted. As part of his
efforts to identify the ACHE’s role, Dr. Fitch had a new agency logo designed, outlining the Commission’s three-fold mission of accessibility, affordability,
and coordination. It is reflective of the ACHE’s focus on critical major higher education issues.
Today, the ACHE is meeting its mission by seeking partnerships with all levels of education,
business leaders, and interested parties to form a PK-20 Council. This statewide council would address issues such as the dropout rate, remediation,
funding, and economic development. A major goal would be the coordination of efforts applicable to all partners, thus, establishing a seamless education
system. Other initiatives would include aligning state and national education resources, improving early learning opportunities and expanding access to
college or employment. All the efforts are designed to support the student.
As a statutorily designated state student data center, ACHE’s data information
provides a key tool for economic development and a foundation for a PK-20 system. Profiles, the Student Database publication, is being widely used
by economic developers and recruiters. The data content, which is the only source available to track a student from K-12 through higher education, enables
recruiters to determine the number of students in specified fields of study. This link between the education and the business communities is a key component
in moving Alabama ahead in the marketplace. The data provides up-to-date information on remedial needs, accessibility, performance measures, and overall
educational content. This solidifies ACHE’s commitment to its partners.
The ACHE strives to emphasize transparency and cooperation. This concept is being
promoted through a new public forum on the website to review and comment on upcoming higher education issues and program review. As a watchdog of the
public trust, the ACHE has taken a strong stand against the influx of diploma mills into Alabama. A bill to consolidate the licensing process of private
for-profit schools under one umbrella didn’t gain legislative approval, however; regulations have been strengthened and enforced to protect Alabamians from
money-making schemes with little return on the investment.
To help this effort, the ACHE has a statutory responsibility for a five-year statewide plan
for higher/postsecondary education. The committee selected to serve in 2008 has been expanded to include business/industry and community representatives. This
collaborative effort will initiate, for the first time, an idea-exchange from various segments to ensure a comprehensive plan.
In all, the ACHE serves as a conduit to improve communication, support educational interest
at all levels, and partner with business and industry to serve citizens of the state.