Harrison Keller will be Texas' next higher education commissioner

Texas Tribune Blue Government News

Harrison Keller is deputy to the president for strategy and policy and a professor of practice at the University of Texas at Austin.
Harrison Keller is deputy to the president for strategy and policy and a professor of practice at the University of Texas at Austin.
Courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin

Texas’ next higher education commissioner will be Harrison Keller, a high-level administrator at the University of Texas at Austin and the founder of recent initiatives designed to improve college readiness and student outcomes. He will assume the post Oct 1.

The appointment was announced Wednesday after a unanimous vote of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Keller will succeed Raymund Paredes, who announced in January that he would step down after more than a dozen years in the state’s top higher education job.

Keller is a clinical professor of public policy practice at UT-Austin and serves as a deputy to the president, responsible for strategy and policy.

His professional biography highlights his policy efforts to boost students’ success — particularly students coming from low-income backgrounds or first-generation college-goers. At UT-Austin, Keller created a program to provide college-level courses to high school students, called OnRamps, and founded an initiative to improve college and career advising. He previously served as the vice provost for higher education policy and research, and as executive director of an educational innovation office and of a teaching and learning center. He also worked in the Texas House, as a director of research and as a senior education policy adviser to state Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, during his tenure as speaker.

“I am pleased that the Coordinating Board has selected Harrison Keller,” said Gov. Greg Abbott in a news release. “With his strong higher education background, we look forward to his leadership and his support in developing and working toward important initiatives to advance postsecondary education and workforce readiness for our citizens.”

Board Chair Stuart Stedman said Keller “stood out from a competitive field of candidates for his extensive knowledge of and experience in strengthening higher education and broadening opportunity for all Texans.”

Keller said, “As a sixth-generation Texan, a son of public school educators, and someone who has spent my career working at the intersections of educational policy, practice and innovation, I believe that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve our state.”

And UT-Austin President Greg Fenves said in an email to the university’s faculty and staff that Keller is a “deep thinker who has the clarity of vision to effect lasting change.”

As commissioner, Keller will serve as the chief executive of the Coordinating Board, an agency that administers the state’s financial aid programs and stewards its strategic plan for higher education, called 60x30TX. It has an operating budget that tops $30 million and a 264-person staff, according to a posting for the commissioner job.

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