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A History of Leading the Way

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Since its founding, ACE has played a major role in shaping higher education in the United States. ACE spearheaded programs, advocated for legislation and undertook initiatives that have formed the postsecondary landscape in the United States over the past century. The Council has been an unflagging advocate for the importance of a diverse campus and expanding the higher education leadership pipeline to underrepresented groups, and of easing the path to a degree for post-traditional students, minorities, women and members of the military and veterans.

In 1935, ACE established the American Youth Commission, which aimed to support unemployed young people during the Great Depression. In 1942, ACE helped to develop the GED® program, which has opened doors to better jobs and college programs for more than 20 million people. The GED Testing Service, a joint venture of ACE and Pearson formed in 2011, launched a new GED program in 2014 that included a new test aligned with state and national college and career readiness standards.

ACE has been at the forefront of the fight for educational equity and access. This began as early as 1938, when ACE began studying the effects of racism on African American children, which was followed by multiple reports on equal opportunity in education. In response to issues raised during the integration of the University of Mississippi, the Council formed the Committee on Equality of Educational Opportunity in 1962. Soon thereafter, in 1964, ACE established the Office of Urban Affairs, which would later be known as the Office of Minorities in Higher Education. In 1982, ACE began publishing an annual status report on minorities in higher education. Then, in 1987, the Commission on Minority Participation in Education and American Life was created, emphasizing the issue of minorities in higher education. ACE still actively supports minorities in its research and advocacy, which includes the 2015 report Race, Class, and College Access: Achieving Diversity in a Shifting Legal Landscape.

Support for women has also been an important issue for the Council since 1920, when ACE established the Committee on the Training of Women for Public Service. In 1953, ACE worked with the National Association for Women in Education to create the Commission on the Education of Women. This examined the role and levels of participation of women in higher education. Twenty years later, in 1973, the Council established the Office of Women in Higher Education. Today, the ACE Women’s Network supports and connects women in higher education throughout the United States. Initiatives such as the Moving the Needle campaign and the National and Regional Women’s Leadership Forums bring together individuals supporting women in higher education.

ACE’s support of the military has been present since the day it was founded during World War I. ACE worked toward the passage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (known as the GI Bill) in 1944, and later the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2008. ACE offers detailed resources for institutions to help them support their military-connected students, as well as resources for service members and veterans. In addition, ACE founded the Program on Non-collegiate Sponsored Instruction, in 1940 to assist campuses in granting credit for what service members and veterans had learned while in the service. ACE’s Military Evaluations Program continues to this day and ACE’s credit recommendations appear in the Military Guide and on military transcripts. The Military Guide includes all evaluated courses and occupations from 1954 to the present. ACE’s College Credit Recommendation Service (CREDIT®) was created in 1974 to include civilian work-related education and now services a wide array of post-traditional learners. CREDIT® reviews training offered by corporations, government agencies, and unions, as well as other formal training taken outside a traditional degree-granting program, and makes recommendations for college credit.

In its more recent history, ACE has been a strong supporter of campus internationalization efforts, and its Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement has been at the forefront of global engagement efforts. Programs like the Internationalization Laboratory and partnerships with groups such as Navitas and Santander Universidades in Mexico have positioned ACE as a major leader in global higher education efforts.

To help support ACE’s advocacy efforts and its work overall, the Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS) offers thought leadership at the intersection of public policy and institutional strategy through reports, papers, issue briefs, infographics and convenings. These offerings provide acute insight and analysis into many critical topics regarding higher education today. The American College President Study (ACPS) is one of the many studies that CPRS conducts. Now in its 8th iteration, ACPS offers in-depth data and analysis regarding the college presidency and higher education leadership pipeline.

Throughout its history, ACE has proven itself a transformative postsecondary education leader in the United States.