Who We Are
Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D.
Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., is president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP). While leading one of the world’s premier research and policy centers, she oversees the organization’s expansive research portfolio and innovative programmatic activities focusing on access and success, accountability, diversity, and finance. In September 2008, Cooper became the second IHEP president and is responsible for developing new ideas and strategic approaches that help low-income, minority, and other historically underserved student populations gain access to and achieve success in postsecondary education.
Cooper has raised millions to help IHEP identify new solutions for our nation’s most pressing educational concerns and identified new strategies that address persistent challenges among students. She has brought a renaissance movement to IHEP that is profoundly affecting the organization’s impact around the world to ensure equal educational opportunities for all students. To note, Cooper has met with higher education leaders from Europe, Asia, and South American countries as well as developed and presented recommendations for collaboration between Russian and U.S. postsecondary organizations during an event attended by President Barack Obama and Russian leaders.
Cooper is a well-respected higher education policy leader. With a career dedicated to and rooted in the postsecondary community, she has served as the deputy director for the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (Advisory Committee) at the U.S. Department of Education. The Advisory Committee is an independent, nonpartisan committee created by Congress to provide advice and counsel to Congress and the Secretary of Education on higher education and student financial aid policy. In this position, she interacted with policymakers, oversaw all policy research activities, and managed day-to-day operations. Before joining the Advisory Committee, Cooper held various leadership positions at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Council for Independent Colleges, and King’s College.
Cooper is a member of the board of directors for ACCESS-Boston, the College of Charleston Alumni Board, the National College Access Network, and the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. She also serves on several advisory boards, including CEOs for Cities' Talent Dividend Prize, the International Rankings Expert Group, the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund), and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. In addition, Cooper is a National Leadership Council member of the Association of American Colleges and Universities' Liberal Education and America’s Promise (also known as LEAP), which is a national initiative that champions the importance of a 21st-century liberal education.
Additionally, Cooper is a “thought leader” and regular contributor to Forbes magazine's online education channel, which receives over 40 million unique visitors each month. She is a highly sought-after speaker who often provides commentary to various media outlets including C-SPAN, FOX News, and NPR as well as The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Hill, Huffington Post, Inside Higher Ed, USA Today, and Washington Post.
Cooper is the recipient of several awards that recognizes her work in advancing economic and educational opportunities for all. For two consecutive years (2013 and 2012), Cooper was selected as a “Game Changer” by Politic365, which recognized her among a distinguished group of bi-partisan, multicultural leaders from across the country whose foresight and active engagement in both the public and private sectors are critical to America’s domestic success and global leadership. The Black Women’s Agenda honored Cooper in September 2012 for her outstanding “economic development contributions to advance, secure, and protect the rights of Black women and their families.”
In November 2011, Cooper, along with the entire IHEP staff, was recognized by the Association for the Study Higher Education for showing exemplary leadership to the higher education community. In 2010, ESSENCE magazine selected Cooper as a "powerful visionary" while celebrating Black women under 40 who are trailblazers. A year earlier, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine also named her “25 to Watch” in its special 25th anniversary issue featuring 25 up-and-coming higher education leaders who are carrying the diversity mantle forward in an avowed commitment to progress; in March 2012, Diverse celebrated Cooper in its first-ever “Women’s History Month” issue as one of 25 women who stand out for their ability to forge solutions to the unprecedented challenges faced by the nation’s colleges and universities. Cooper is also the recipient of the 2010 University of Maryland College of Education's Outstanding Young Alumni Award and the 2002 National Education Association’s Excellence in the Academy New Scholar Award.
A native of Charleston, S.C., Cooper received her B.A. from the College of Charleston, an M.P.S. from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park.
An expert on various higher education issues, Cooper is well versed in higher education access and success (domestic and international), national higher education trends and policies, and student experience and engagement.
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