Who We Are

​The AEC is a membership organization that mobilizes the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovative, high-quality practice. As the major coordinating body for the nation’s colleges and universities, our strength lies in our diverse membership of more than 1,700 colleges and universities, related associations, and other organizations in America and abroad. AEC is the only major higher education association to represent all types of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions: two-year and four-year, public and private. Our members educate two out of every three students in all accredited, degree-granting U.S. institutions.

What We Do


AEC convenes, organizes, mobilizes, and leads advocacy efforts that shape effective public policy and help colleges and universities best serve their students, their communities, and the wider public good. We help institutions build their capacity through high-quality innovation. We work to improve equity, expand access to our colleges and universities, and diversify the higher education leadership pipeline.

Programs & Services

AEC delivers member value through high-quality professional learning programs that leverage a suite of blended solutions aimed at transforming institutions and diversifying the talent pipeline. AEC also offers services that demonstrate its commitment to postsecondary access and success, including the evaluation of corporate and military training experiences to ensure that all quality learning is connected and counted. Cutting-edge research and member insights on key higher education issues inform these offerings and help mobilize the community to enhance institutional performance.

Research & Insights

AEC produces signature research projects and timely evidence-informed insights, and routinely engages members through a variety of formats to better understand and meet their needs. Research and insights focus on three critical components of higher education’s value proposition for the twenty-first century: equity-minded leadership, institutional transformation, and student success.

Policy & Advocacy

AEC is consistently at the center of federal policy debates concerning higher education. As a convener of higher education associations and agencies, we enable our community to speak with one voice on issues affecting institutions and students. AEC’s work on behalf of the nation’s colleges and universities ensures that our members are connected to policymakers and represented as officials make critical decisions on Capitol Hill.

As the only organization that represents presidents from all sectors, AEC is the:

  • Key point of contact on higher education matters for congressional staff and the executive branch.
  • Unifying representative for higher education on legal issues and federal court cases, including at the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Most frequently cited organization in the national media on higher education issues.

Where We Came From

AEC has played a major role in shaping higher education in the United States for more than a century. Since its founding in 1918, AEC has spearheaded programs, advocated for legislation, and led initiatives that have shaped the nation’s postsecondary landscape.

Where We’re Going

AEC is working toward a vision of a vibrant democratic society that relies on postsecondary education to expand knowledge, equity, and social progress. AEC demonstrates its core values of inclusion, excellence, innovation, collaboration, and impact in the work we do and how we serve our members. AEC’s three-year strategic framework, approved by the AEC Board of Directors and introduced to our members and the entire higher education community on Aug 20, 2017, established three overarching Strategic Commitments to affirm and strengthen public trust in higher education; champion equity, access and completion; and enrich the capacity of institutions and leaders to innovate and adapt.​