Molly Corbett Broad, who in nine years as president of the American Council on Education has focused the college presidents’ association on driving technological and other change in higher education, will retire in October, ACE announced Tuesday.
“Molly’s leadership has had a profound impact on higher education,” said John J. DeGioia, chair of ACE’s Board of Directors and president of Georgetown University. “Her unwavering commitment to excellence has animated all of our work, strengthening our efforts to improve access and provide the very best education to students across our country.”
Broad, the first woman to run the chief college lobbying group, led it during a period of financial strain and intense government scrutiny for higher education.
During her time there, the council opposed major efforts by the Obama administration to impose a college rating system and to increase the federal regulatory footprint in higher education.
But Broad’s own interests ran less to the council’s historic priorities of policy making and governance and more toward trendier topics such as technological innovation and change -- often in ways that drew criticism.
Most visibly, Broad and ACE enthusiastically embraced the introduction of massive open online courses. First, the council used a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create an “innovation lab” to study new academic and financial models inspired by MOOCs. Then, in early 2013, ACE’s credit-granting arm deemed five such courses worthy of academic credit -- even though none of institutions offering the courses would grant such credit themselves.
As the public and news media fascination with MOOCs quickly ebbed, Broad defended ACE’s approach. But a string of high-profile hires she made to oversee the new initiatives left almost as quickly as they came, creating a sense of rapid turnover and even turmoil within One Dupont Circle, which houses ACE and other college groups.
Broad also made a major focus of adult and veterans’ education early in her tenure, but the council recently largely gutted its programming for veterans.
The other major initiative of Broad’s tenure was a new approach to the GED, which it overhauled in 2011 in partnership with Pearson Education. The verdict is still out on whether that arrangement will be a long-term success for the council, financially and otherwise. Dozens of states have in recent years begun offering alternatives to the GED, in part because the test's new parent sharply increased its prices.
Like other ACE presidents before her, Broad had a long career as a college president before leading the association. She was president of the University of North Carolina system before coming to ACE and, before that, executive vice chancellor of the California State University System and chief executive officer of Arizona’s university system.