Support, Advance, Enhance: CIC and Independent Higher Education

Marjorie Hass headshot

I am extremely honored and happy to be settling in as the president of the Council of Independent Colleges. My own career experience—15 years in the classroom as a professor of philosophy, five years as a provost, and 12 years as a college president— has shown me independent colleges and universities make an incredible and positive difference, changing the lives of our students and through them changing and healing the world.

CIC is the premier national association devoted to the health and flourishing of independent higher education. Our mission calls for us to “support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society.” I have been reflecting about how this mission should best meet the moment: about what it means to pursue these goals at this particular and critical point in history. CIC’s value to our membership is greatest when our program and services align with the issues campus leaders face both “in real time” and “up ahead.” As president, my focus will be on continuing to strengthen this alignment. Over the course of this year I will be listening, learning, and developing an agenda for CIC’s future that supports the health and flourishing of CIC campuses and their leaders.

I was drawn to serve CIC by my deep love of the transformative power of independent colleges, by CIC’s long-standing record of serving our sector, and by an equally strong sense that this moment is a crucible for our sector and for American higher education in general. If we are to protect and expand student-centered learning grounded in free inquiry and responsive to a diverse population of democratic citizens, we must act collectively as well as individually.

The stakes may never have been higher. Humanity is in the midst of great cultural and historic change as we adapt to revolutionary developments in technology, as we strive to make the promises of economic growth truly available to a diverse citizenry, and as we grapple with the fragility of our very planet and its life-sustaining ecosystem. Little wonder then that we find our campuses at the center of so many debates over what to teach, how to teach, whom to teach—and how to financially sustain ourselves.

This past year has shown that independent higher education is more agile than anyone supposed. But it has also shown that there is no easy replacement for the mission-driven commitment to students that structures our teaching models and our practices for individual student support. I believe that our best hopes lie in our sector’s fierce independence, which gives each institution the mandate to adapt and change in ways that benefit its own students, that respond to changing conditions, and that keep its mission vibrant. At CIC we look forward to harnessing and highlighting the best ideas, to learning from one another, and to connecting you with the resources you need to lead and shape the future.

CIC works on behalf of its member colleges and universities alongside sister associations that, with their varying missions, also form an important part of the higher education ecosystem. Collaboration with them on important issues amplifies CIC’s impact on its members, on higher education, and on students and communities nationwide. For instance, CIC has joined with the 84 other members of the Student Aid Alliance to support a national effort to double the maximum Pell Grant from $6,495 to $13,000 by June 2022. I encourage CIC member institutions to get involved in this campaign. You can find information, data, action steps, and updates at (focused on the independent sector and aimed at presidents) and (focused on all sectors and aimed at students and families).

Higher education leaders have many hard days. Successful and ambitious leaders may feel that their reach always exceeds their grasp and that they are never satisfied with the status quo. That can make for uneasy sleep, but it keeps our institutions moving ever forward.

We are equally ambitious at CIC. I hope you will share your challenges and successes and give us your frank thoughts about ways we can increase the value of your membership. My goal is for CIC to serve as a source of endless inspiration and practical assistance for our members and to light the way for others to understand and support the work our members do. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your thoughts at