Advisory Council

The Advisory Council is a group of policy influencers and subject matter experts who have voluntarily agreed to provide the Campaign for Free College Tuition (CFCT) with wise counsel and advice on how to achieve our mission. While the Council is strictly advisory in nature and its members do not have any financial or fiduciary responsibilities with CFCT, we look forward to linking their individual expertise with those in the public arena seeking our assistance.



Advisory Council Co-Chairs

 Michelle Lujan Grisham

The Honorable Michelle Lujan Grisham 

Governor of New Mexico

Michelle Lujan Grisham is the 32nd Governor of New Mexico and was the first Democratic Latina to be elected governor in U.S. history. As a 12th-generation New Mexican and former Congressional Representative, she has witnessed first-hand the life-changing and multigenerational impact of higher education on the state’s citizens and communities. As governor, Lujan Grisham has made tuition-free college a top priority. During her second year in office, she introduced the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship, enabling thousands of New Mexico students to pursue certificate and degree programs at public and Tribal colleges across the state at no cost to them Understanding that tuition and fees are only part of the cost of higher education, the scholarship allows students to apply federal and need-based aid above and beyond the cost of tuition, meaning that these funds can cover expenses such as books and materials, housing, transportation, and childcare. The Opportunity Scholarship also provides an option for adult learners to enroll as part-time students, who make up a majority of the state’s enrolled college population.

New Mexico was the first state to provide tuition-free college with the establishment of the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship in 1996. In 2021, Governor Lujan Grisham restored funding for the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship for the first time in six years, ensuring that it could once again cover the full cost of tuition for recent high school graduates. Lujan Grisham was also the first to extend the benefit of state-funded financial aid programs to students attending Tribal colleges and universities and established an Indian Education Division at the New Mexico Higher Education Department to ensure that students from the state’s 23 Native American Pueblos, Tribes, and Nations have equal access to affordable educational opportunities.

As New Mexico seeks to grow state industries including film production, green energy, and cannabis, Governor Lujan Grisham considers it a priority to prepare students for family-sustaining careers in their own communities. As a leader who is invested in positioning New Mexico as a national leader in innovation while uplifting citizens and communities, she knows that providing affordable and accessible higher education is the key to growing and keeping New Mexico talent in New Mexico. Prior to her election as Governor, Lujan Grisham served three terms as Congressional Representative for New Mexico’s first district, where she worked to ensure that federal financial aid programs continued to support students. During her time in Congress, she also served as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, where she collaborated with tech companies such as Google and Facebook to better recruit and retain diverse graduates from Hispanic-Serving and other Minority-serving institutions.

Lujan Grisham holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of New Mexico. She looks forward to serving as co-chair of the Campaign for Free College Tuition Advisory Committee and helping to expand opportunities for students nationwide.

Jim Blanchard

The Honorable James Blanchard  

Former Governor of Michigan

Governor Blanchard's eight years as Michigan's chief executive were notable for his success in turning around Michigan's finances, working with the private sector to attract business investment and trade from around the world. He won national acclaim for his innovative approaches to economic development, education, crime fighting, environmental protection and helping children and families.

On January 1, 1983, he took over what was described as "the toughest governor's job in America." His state faced a US$1.7 billion deficit, the threat of bankruptcy, record high unemployment of more than 17 percent and the worst credit rating in America. Working with leaders of business, labor, education and local government, the governor put together a strategy for Michigan's future and made the tough decisions necessary to keep it on track. James Blanchard completed his work as Michigan's 45th governor having balanced eight consecutive state budgets, boosted the state's credit rating to AA, established a US$422 million "rainy-day fund" and produced a solvency dividend of more than US$1 billion in savings from reduced borrowing costs. He was reelected 1986 by the largest margin of any governor in Michigan history.

Newsweek credited Governor Blanchard with leading "one of the most dramatic economic turnabouts in the recent history of state government," and national publications such as US News and World Report listed him among the best governors in America, one of the innovators and energizers who made things work in an era of declining federal aid.

Before running for governor, he served four terms in Congress where he distinguished himself for his work to save the Chrysler Corporation, restore America's economic competitiveness, and oversee financial, monetary, trade and energy issues. 

Following his serve as Governor, Blanchard was named U.S. ambassador to Canada.  During his three-year tenure as ambassador, he managed a broad range of trade, natural resources, environmental and national security issues between the United States and Canada, providing support critical to the passage of both NAFTA and the Open Skies Agreement. 

Blanchard is currently the Chair Emeritus, Government Affairs Practice Group, at DLA Piper.  In 1997, Governor Blanchard authored Behind the Embassy Door, a book highlighting his experiences as ambassador. 

Advisory Council Vice-Chair

Bill Halter

The Honorable Bill Halter 

Former Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas

Bill Halter has served as Arkansas’ 14th Lieutenant Governor, advised the President of the United States while serving on the White House staff, provided economic analysis to the United States Congress, led the Social Security Administration, consulted for Fortune 500 companies with McKinsey and Company, served as a Trustee of Stanford University, and served on the Boards of Directors of five public companies in the information technology and life sciences industries.  He is currently the Founder and CEO of Scenic Hill Solar, a company that develops solar power plants for commercial and industrial companies and municipal electric and water utilities. 

In November 2006, Halter was elected as Lieutenant Governor with 57 percent of the vote.  As the state’s second-ranking constitutional officer, he presided over the Arkansas State Senate and served as Governor when the Governor was out of state.  Nationally, Lieutenant Governor Halter chaired the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association (after being elected by his colleagues) and chaired the Southern Region of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.

To help Arkansas develop a skilled and educated work force, Lieutenant Governor Halter led the campaign to establish a state-run lottery in Arkansas with all proceeds dedicated to college scholarships.  In its first seven years of operation, this initiative tripled the scholarship funds provided by the state of Arkansas, generated over $700 million of additional scholarship assistance, and produced more than 235,000 higher education scholarships. 

Previously, Bill Halter advised businesses in a range of industries as a management consultant with McKinsey and Company.  In the public sector, Bill Halter was nominated by the President and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate as the Deputy Commissioner of Social Security in 1999.  As that agency’s Chief Operating Officer, he managed the delivery of more than $500 billion in benefits to over 48 million Americans and initiated Social Security’s delivery of services via the Internet.  He later served as Acting Commissioner of Social Security.

Bill Halter joined the White House staff in 1993, working to help trim bureaucratic waste with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Executive Office of the President.  Previously, he served the U.S. Congress as Chief Economist for the Senate Finance Committee and as an economist for the Joint Economic Committee.

Bill Halter is a Rhodes Scholar, receiving a Master of Philosophy degree in economics from Oxford University.  He studied economics and political science as a National Merit Scholar and Harry S. Truman Scholar at Stanford University, earning an A.B. degree with honors and distinction and graduating as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  He served as a Trustee of Stanford University for seven years, chairing the Academic Policy Committee and continues to serve on the Advisory Council for Stanford University Libraries.

Advisory Council Members

Sarah Pingel

Lexi Anderson, Ed.D.

Policy Director, Education Commission of the States

Lexi Anderson is a Policy Director at Education Commission of the states. In her role she manages policy projects and services providing impact for state policymakers. She has more than 10 years of experience working as a higher education administrator and education policy professional, with the past five years focused on postsecondary and workforce development policies. Lexi believes education policy is best informed through non-partisan research and cross-state collaboration.

Janice Brown

Dr. Janice M. Brown 

Chair of the Board of Trustees and Executive Director Emeritus, Kalamazoo Promise

Janice M. Brown is currently the Chair of the Board of Trustees and Executive Director Emeritus of the Kalamazoo Promise. She was Superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools from July 2000 to August 2007, and prior to that served as Executive Director of Instruction. In addition, she has over 40 years of experience working at all levels of public education. She has been a teacher, consultant, visiting professor, state administrator, principal, and central office administrator. 

Brown has made state and national presentations for many professional groups, most recently on the economic/educational value of The Kalamazoo Promise. She was named Michigan Superintendent of the Year for her region and received the national Athena Award, the Women of Achievement and the Glass Ceiling Award given to women who have shown outstanding leadership. Her most recent honor was the Crystal Apple Award from Michigan State University. Brown provides leadership at all levels of the community for improved learning for all students and engagement/support from the total community. She currently serves on a number of Boards and committees representing the Promise.

One capstone of her tenure as superintendent for Kalamazoo Public Schools was the preparation and announcement of The Kalamazoo Promise. Brown continues to be the spokesperson for the Kalamazoo Promise as one of its founders and works closely with Kalamazoo Public Schools and many organizations in the greater Kalamazoo region. Brown has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Katie Couric Show, ABC, The Today Show, CNN, Good Morning America and the New York Times. 

Will Haskell  

Former Connecticut State Senator

Will Haskell represented the 26th District in the Connecticut State Senate from 2019-2023. Just a few months after graduating from college, Haskell unseated an incumbent who had been in the legislature for longer than he had been alive. His campaign received national attention and earned the endorsement of President Barack Obama. After he was sworn in, Haskell became the youngest State Senator in the country.

During his first term, Haskell served as the Senate Chairman of the Higher Education Committee, where he prioritized college affordability legislation. In 2019, he helped to enact Connecticut’s free community college program so that every high school graduate has an opportunity to pursue a degree. After the bill's passage, Haskell visited every community college campus in the state to meet with students and faculty. That year, Forbes named Haskell in their 30 Under 30 feature.

Haskell graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University and is currently a student at NYU Law School. In 2022, Haskell published 100,000 First Bosses with Simon and Schuster, a book about the need for more young people to claim seats at every table where decisions are made.

Mark Hass  

Former Oregon State Senator

When President Barack Obama met state senator Mark Hass at an Oregon rally at the Nike Campus in 2015, the president asked him what he was working on. “Free community college,” Hass said. And then explained he was scrambling to get “yes” votes.

The next day when Hass arrived at the state Capitol he learned the White House had called with instructions “from the boss” to help Oregon pass his bill. And two months later, the governor signed the Oregon Promise into law.

Sen. Hass not only was the champion of the Oregon Promise – now in its seventh year – but is also known for sponsoring a series of pro-education laws that have changed education policy in Oregon. As a legislator for 20 years, he was known as someone who can be trusted and relied upon to be fair. That’s how big accomplishments are achieved.

Prior to his public service, Hass worked as a broadcast journalist in radio and television, including 16 years for the ABC affiliate in Portland, KATU-TV.

He earned a BS degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon and an MA in Communications from American University in Washington, DC.

He lives in Beaverton, Oregon, and is married with two children.

Meghan Hughes

Meghan Hughes 

President, Community College of Rhode Island

With 30 years of experience in higher education and the nonprofit sector, Dr. Meghan Hughes became the fifth president of the Community College of Rhode Island on Feb. 1, 2016. CCRI is the largest community college in New England with four main campuses. The college serves more than 22,000 students annually and boasts more than 68,000 alumni.

In her first three years as president, Hughes has led the implementation of a strategic plan focused on student success. She is committed to providing Rhode Islanders with an outstanding community college education that leads to strong learning outcomes, successful degree attainment and robust labor market outcomes. Hughes has placed closing equity performance gaps at the center of her work. Last year the college marked its highest graduation rate in 18 years and is laser focused on attaining meaningful retention, completion, transfer and employment gains.

Hughes is an Aspen Institute Fellow for Community College Excellence. She was presented with the “Trailblazer in Education” award in 2018 at the Realizing Inspiration & Sustaining Excellence Women’s Leadership Conference. Hughes was recognized by the Latino Public Radio Foundation with its Foundation Builder Award in 2016 and by the Rhode Island Foundation with its Community Leader award in 2015. In 2014, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline named Hughes an Outstanding Woman of the Year.

Hughes serves on the boards of the Rhode Island Foundation, Greater Providence Chamber and Year Up Rhode Island. In addition, she is a member of Congressman Cicilline’s Women’s Advisory Council, the Rhode Island Commodores, the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education and Employability and the Governor’s Skills Cabinet.

Hughes graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and holds a doctorate from New York University.

Ashley Johnson

Ashley Johnson 

Executive Director, Detroit College Access Network (DCAN)

Ashley Johnson is the Executive Director of the Detroit College Access Network (DCAN). DCAN is a network of cross-sector leaders and organizations – bigger than any one program or initiative – working together to ensure all Detroit students have the opportunity to attend and complete college. Prior to DCAN, Ashley served as the Director of Collective Impact at Excellent Schools Detroit (ESD) a coalition of philanthropy, educators, and community-based organizations working together to ensure that every Detroit student is in an excellent school.

Ashley earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Mississippi where she was also a four-year scholarship student-athlete. Ashley earned a PhD from Michigan State University in K-12 Education Administration with a specialization in Urban Education.

Prior to her work at DCAN, Ashley was a secondary science teacher, teacher coach, curriculum specialist, and instructional leader. Ashley is the first person in her family to attend college and truly believes in the power of higher education as a mechanism for economic mobility and vehicle for community empowerment and improvement. For these reasons, Ashley has dedicated her career to her passion for education and helping others complete college and achieve their educational dreams.

Ted Kahn

Ted M. Kahn 

Ph.D., CEO, DesignWorlds for Learning, Inc. & DesignWorlds for College & Careers

Dr. Ted M. Kahn is the co-founder, CEO, and creative learning/future careers architect of DesignWorlds for Learning, Inc., and DesignWorlds for College & Careers (DWC = Together with his wife, Frona Kahn, since 2004, DWC has served over 850 high school, college and graduate student clients and families in their successful exploration, preparation and coaching for college. grad school and post-grad MBA admissions applications. DWC's clients have been primarily children of immigrant parents who did not attend undergraduate college in the U.S., along with many international student applicants living abroad.

Ted has had over 45 years of experience as a pioneer in educational technology, digital media and learning sciences, including both in high tech/ startup companies such as Atari and Digital F/X, as well as advanced R&D at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and as a member of the senior research staff at the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL). He has also been affiliated as either a Senior Fellow/Distinguished Visiting Scholar at UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, Santa Clara University's Center for Science, Technology & Society, the New Media Consortium and Stanford's MediaX project.  He has held adjunct faculty positions at UCLA, Santa Clara University, University of San Francisco and Foothill College.

Ted earned his A.B. degree (with honors) in Computer Science, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology, all from the University of California, Berkeley. He has has served as consultant/advisor to the National Science Foundation and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and has a longstanding involvement and interests in informal and recreational learning in museums and other non-profit organizations, including being a co-founding board member of the award winning Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose. Ted has also been an early developer and advocate for free online Open Education Resources (OER) in both K-12 and college/lifelong learning.

Elaine Kamarck

Elaine Kamark 

Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

Elaine C. Kamarck is a Senior Fellow in the Governance Studies program as well as the Director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution. She is an expert on American electoral politics and government innovation and reform in the United States, OECD nations, and developing countries.

Kamarck is the author of Primary Politics: Everything You Need to Know about How America Nominates Its Presidential Candidates” and Why Presidents Fail and How They Can Succeed Again.” She is also the author of “How Change Happens—or Doesn’t: The Politics of US Public Policy” and “The End of Government-As We Know It: Making Public Policy Work.”

Kamarck is also a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She started at the Kennedy School in 1997 after a career in politics and government. She served in the White House from 1993 to 1997, where she created and managed the Clinton Administration's National Performance Review, also known as the “reinventing government initiative.”

Kamarck received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jessie Ryan 

Executive Vice President, Campaign for College Opportunity

Jessie Ryan grew up in the Central Valley and was raised by a struggling single mother. While life was often challenging, Jessie’s mother taught her that being economically disadvantaged did not mean a lifetime of disadvantage. She instilled the belief in Jessie that through education and civic participation individuals could vastly improve their quality of life. It was her mother’s strong sense of civic service and empathy for others that inspired Jessie to seek a college education, something her mother had always dreamed of doing, and devote much of her professional life to making it possible for others to follow their same college dream.

As the Executive Vice President for the Campaign for College Opportunity, Jessie leads the organization’s advocacy and policy efforts to increase the number of California students accessing higher education, impact the rate that students succeed in reaching their educational goals, and close racial equity gaps. A proud product of California’s Community Colleges and California State University System, over the past decade, Jessie shepherded efforts to simplify the transfer pathway (SB1440 & AB 928) from community colleges to four-year universities. She has also successfully led efforts to expand enrollment funding for the CSU and UC as well as efforts to reform remedial education at community colleges (AB 705).

Most passionate about educational opportunity, leadership development, and elevating California’s Central Valley, before joining the Campaign Jessie served as a Circuit Rider for the Great Valley Center’s Community-based Assistance Programs (CAPs) working to support activities and organizations that promote the economic, social, and environmental well-being of California’s Great Central Valley. Acting as a technical advisor on local issues throughout the 21-county region, Jessie provided extensive outreach and capacity building services to rural and underserved communities.

In December 2017, Jessie was elected president of the Sacramento City Unified School District, Board of Education, where her “Safe Haven School District” policy was lifted-up by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson as a state and national model. From 2014-2020, as a board member, she was humbled to represent some of the poorest, most diverse neighborhoods in the state’s Capitol and dedicated herself to ensuring that all students would have a pathway out of poverty through public education.

Jessie graduated from Emerge California, a political leadership training program designed to identify, educate, and inspire Democratic women who want to pursue a career in politics at the local and state level. Jessie was a graduate of the Women’s Policy Institute, a program offered by the Women’s Foundation of California and created to increase the number of women leaders in California who are actively involved in shaping and implementing policies that affect the health and well-being of women and girls. She was a fellow in the Institute for Developing Emerging Area Leaders (IDEAL) program, which is dedicated to engaging a diverse group of valley stakeholders in strengthening effective public policy decision-making. Jessie was also selected to represent the valley in the Pew Partnership’s LeadershipPlenty – a program that teaches participants civic skills such as taking action, managing conflict, building partnerships, and engaging diverse communities in creating long-term positive community change. In 2018, she was named the 2018 “Woman of Inspiration” by the Sacramento Kings.

She attended Sacramento City College, was the recipient of a Kelly Broadcasting scholarship, and holds her bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University and her Master of Arts degree from Saint Mary’s College of California. She currently resides in the DC area with her husband, Arsenio Mataka, Senior Advisor on Climate and Health Equity with the Biden administration and their two children.

Bob Samuels

Robert Samuels 

Author and Former President UC-AFT

Bob holds doctoral degrees in Psychology and English. He teaches advanced writing at the University of California, Santa, Barbara. For 12 years, he was the president of UC-AFT, a union representing over 5,000 faculty. He is the author of 12 books, including Educating Inequality: Beyond the Political Myths of Higher Education and the Job Market and Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free: How to Decrease Cost and Increase Quality at American Universities. He was an early advocate for free public higher education.

Robert Shapiro

Robert Shapiro 

Founder and Chairman, Sonecon, LLC

Robert Shapiro is the founder and chairman of Sonecon, LLC, a firm in Washington D.C. that provides analysis and advice to U.S. and foreign government officials, business executives, and leaders of non-governmental organizations on economic and security-related policy matters.  He also is a Senior Fellow of the Georgetown University Center for Business and Public Policy, a board director of the Medici Venture Fund, and an advisory board member of Cote Capital, Gilead Sciences, the Campaign for Free College Tuition, and Civil Rights Defenders.

Dr. Shapiro has advised, among others, Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Vice President Albert Gore, Jr., British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Timothy Geithner, and other senior members of the Clinton, Obama and Trump administrations and members of the U.S. Congress.  Sonecon also has advised Defense Secretaries Chuck Hegel and Ashton Carter, Homeland Security Secretaries Jah Johnson and Kirstjen Nielsen, and senior officials at DARPA, the Department of Energy, and the Applied Physics Laboratory. In addition to public officials, Dr. Shapiro and Sonecon have provided analysis and advice to senior executives at major companies including AT&T, Exelon, Exxon-Mobil, Gilead Sciences, Google, Nasdaq, Nordstjernan of Sweden, and Fujitsu of Japan.  Dr. Shapiro and Sonecon also have advised many non-governmental organizations on a pro bono basis, including the International Monetary Fund, the Brookings Institution, the Center for American Progress, NDN, No Labels and the Progressive Policy Institute.

Before founding Sonecon, Dr. Shapiro was the U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs from 1997 to 2001.  Prior to that, he was a co-founder and the Vice President of the Progressive Policy Institute and, before that, the Legislative Director and Economic Counsel to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.   He also served as the principal economic advisor to Bill Clinton in his 1991-1992 presidential campaign, as senior economic adviser to Hillary Clinton in her 2015-2016 campaign, and as economic-policy adviser to the campaigns of Barack Obama, John Kerry and Albert Gore, Jr. Dr. Shapiro has been a Fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research, Harvard University, the Brookings Institution, and the Fujitsu Institute.  He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from Harvard University, a M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and an A.B. from the University of Chicago.

Paul Weinstein

Paul Weinstein, Jr. 

Program Director, The Johns Hopkins University

Paul Weinstein Jr. is the Director of the MA in Public Management program at Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Weinstein has taught at Johns Hopkins University since 2003, and his areas of research include fiscal policy, higher education, transportation, and government management. Weinstein has also lectured at Columbia University and Georgetown University. He is a co-author of the textbook, The Art of Policy Making, currently in its second edition.

A veteran of two Presidential Administrations, Weinstein was the senior advisor to the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which was created by President Obama to address the nation’s mid-and long-term fiscal challenges. President Clinton appointed Weinstein as Special Assistant to the President and served as chief of staff of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Later he became senior advisor for policy planning to Vice President Gore. Before joining the Clinton administration, Weinstein served as a legislative aide to former Representative C. Thomas McMillen (D-MD) and then-Senator Albert Gore Jr. (D-TN).

Weinstein currently sits on the board of the Progressive Policy Institute, where he was senior fellow and then chief operating officer between 2001 and 2008. He is also senior policy adviser to the Promontory Interfinancial Network, a leading fintech based in Arlington, Virginia. Weinstein received his Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his Masters from Columbia University.

Watch Governor Gina Raimondo, Former Co-Chair of CFCT's Advisory Council, speak with POLITICO in February 2020 about the incredible impact free college tuition has had on her state and her plans to continue supporting the policy.

We can't do this alone!

Our goal is to make higher education a possibility for every American, without regard to their financial circumstances.

We have a lot to do and not much time to do it, so your support is critical for our campaign to succeed. It’s with your investment that we can fundamentally reform how higher education is financed in this country, opening the doors to a more equitable society.

If you agree with our goal, our plan, and the urgency of the problem, we ask that you give what you can to help us write the next chapter in our nation’s history of continuously expanding access to universal, free education.

The Campaign for Free College Tuition is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established in the State of Washington in 2014 to educate parents, students, the higher education community, policy makers and taxpayers about efforts needed to fundamentally reform our nation’s system for financing higher education. This website and CFCT’s educational outreach activities are made possible through generous individual and foundation support.