A Bold Vision
2023 marks 70 years of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). An experiment of sorts in the post-World War II years, WICHE was born out of regional workforce needs and the idea that interstate collaboration could provide a solution. You can read more about our history in the book “A History of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education: The First 40 Years,” by Frank C. Abbott.
1950: The Western Regional Education Compact is drafted
Governors attending the Western Governors’ Conference come together to generate the Western Regional Education Compact, a foundational document underlying what would eventually establish the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), an interstate compact aiming to help the West address higher education and workforce issues distinct to the region.
1951: Commissioners begin to organize
Fourteen Commissioners from the five states that ratified the Western Regional Education Compact – Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah – begin to organize what would eventually become known as the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).
1953: WICHE is officially established
The Western Regional Education Compact is signed into law by President Dwight E. Eisenhower and officially establishes WICHE. Members include Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. William Jones is appointed the first executive director and offices are established in Eugene, Oregon. In its first fiscal year, WICHE aids 61 students from five states to enroll in medical, dental, and veterinary medicine schools through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP).
1955: The WICHE Behavioral Health Program forms
WICHE’s focus expands to include training for mental health professionals and helping institutions grow their graduate nursing programs, forming the WICHE Behavioral Health Program.
1955: Harold Enarson is appointed executive director
Harold Enarson is appointed the executive director and the WICHE offices move to Boulder, Colorado.
1955: Alaska, California, and Washington join
Alaska, California, and Washington join WICHE.
1959: Hawai‘i and Nevada join
Hawai‘i and Nevada join WICHE.
1960: Robert Kroepsch is appointed executive director
Robert Kroepsch is appointed the executive director of WICHE.
1968: NCHEMS is established
WICHE establishes the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS).
1976: Phillip Sirotkin is appointed executive director
Phillip Sirotkin is appointed the executive director of WICHE.
1979: The WICHE Information Clearinghouse begins publishing data
The WICHE Information Clearinghouse – later becoming the WICHE’s Policy Analysis and Research unit – begins collecting and publishing data, including high school graduate projections for the 50 states. The first high school graduate projections are published by WICHE, the National Institute of Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association. This publication will later become known as Knocking at the College Door and is published approximately every four years to help stakeholders make prudent decisions related to higher education policy, institutional operations, and long-term planning.
1981: The Western Regional Graduate Program forms
The Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) launches, allowing students to attend select out-of-state graduate certificate, master’s, and doctoral programs.
1984: The Northwest Academic Leadership Forum is established
The Northwest Academic Forum is established with representatives from 11 member states, a membership organization for academic leaders at four-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, now known as the Western Academic Leadership Forum.
1985: North Dakota joins
North Dakota joins WICHE.
1988: The Western Undergraduate Exchange forms
The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), which allows students to choose from hundreds of undergraduate programs outside their home state and pay no more than 150 percent of that institution’s resident tuition rate, launches with 640 students enrolled at 56 colleges and universities at 10 states.
1988: South Dakota joins
South Dakota joins WICHE.
1989: WCET forms
WCET – the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications launches to address the practice, policy, and advocacy of distance education.
1990: Richard Jonsen is appointed executive director
Richard Jonsen is appointed the executive director of WICHE.
1993: The Compact for Faculty Diversity launches
With funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, Ford Foundation and an anonymous gift, the Compact for Faculty Diversity launches at WICHE as the fiscal agent for a unified program with the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities who complete doctoral degrees and enter college and university teaching.
1995: The Legislative Advisory Committee forms
The Western Policy Exchange, a multiyear initiative, begins with support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The WICHE Legislative Advisory Committee is created as a component of the Exchange to inform the Commission and its staff about significant higher education legislation and to provide input on WICHE initiatives.
2000: David Longanecker is appointed executive director
David Longanecker is appointed the executive director of WICHE. In 2007, a vote by the Commission changes his title from WICHE executive director to WICHE president.
2004: WICHE partners with MHEC
The Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) invites WICHE to partner in the Master Property Program to help institutions reduce insurance premiums and improve coverages. WICHE later partners with MHEC to offer MHECare, providing institutions affordable student health insurance options, MHECtech, a cost-saving purchasing program spanning an array of technologies to benefit hundreds of institutions, and a cybersecurity purchasing option.
2005: SHEPC is formed
Funded by a low-interest loan from the Ford Foundation, WICHE, NCHEMS, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) join together to form the State Higher Education Policy Center (SHEPC) and purchase office space, a shared learning center, and meeting facilities, in Boulder, Colorado, where they reside today.
2010: The Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders is founded
With support from the Western Academic Leadership Forum, the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders is founded. The Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders is founded with seed funding from the Forum. Its members are the chief academic officers of the community and technical schools along with their associated system and state agencies located in the 15 WICHE states and the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States.
2011: The State Authorization Network is created
The State Authorization Network (SAN) is created by WCET to serve institutions and organizations nationwide by providing support to navigate regulatory compliance for out-of-state activities of postsecondary institutions.
2011: Interstate Passport® is developed
An initial grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and subsequent funding over several years from Lumina Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and ECMC Foundation, enable the Forum and Alliance members to work with WICHE staff to develop and scale the Interstate Passport®.
2012: The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands joins
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is the first to join WICHE under the shared Pacific Islands membership open to all U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States.
2013: WICHE supports the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement
WICHE becomes the fiscal agent for grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the development of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) and implementation operations at each of the regional compacts and a new NC-SARA coordinating group.
2015: Together With Veterans is founded
Together With Veterans, a community-based suicide prevention program for rural Veterans, is founded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and is carried out by a collaboration between WICHE, the Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) for Suicide Prevention.
2015: The Western Academic Leadership Academy launches
The Western Academic Leadership Academy, a year-long program designed to develop the leadership skills and functional knowledge needed by vice provosts, deans, and other academic leaders to move to the next level at four-year institutions, launches.
2016: Joseph Garcia is appointed president
Joseph Garcia is appointed the president of WICHE.
2016: Guam joins
Guam joins WICHE’s Pacific Islands membership.
2017: Every Learner Everywhere forms
Every Learner Everywhere, a network of partner organizations that advocates for equitable outcomes in higher education through advances in digital learning, is formed and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
2017: The Native-Serving Institutions Initiative is created
A collaboration of two- and four-year institutions designated as Native American-Serving Nontribal institutions by the U.S. Department of Education is created with a three-year grant from Lumina Foundation. The Native-Serving Institutions Initiative engages colleges and universities throughout the U.S. that have at least 10 percent American Indian and Alaska Native students in their enrollments, in convenings and webinars, and provided a subset of the institutions with grants to support the educational success of Native students.
2018: Demarée Michelau is appointed president
Demarée Michelau is appointed the president of WICHE. She is WICHE’s first female president.
2021: The Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia join
The Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia join WICHE’s Pacific Islands membership, an expansion made possible through a generous grant from the Office of Insular Affairs to cover annual dues.
2022: The Republic of Palau joins
The Republic of Palau joins WICHE’s Pacific Islands membership. The Office of Insular Affairs grant, which covers WICHE’s annual dues for the Pacific Islands, is awarded for a second consecutive year.
2023: WICHE celebrates 70 years
WICHE celebrates its 70th anniversary.