Donald E. Heller is Vice President of Operations and a professor of education (currently on sabbatical) at the University of San Francisco. His teaching and research have been influenced by his status as a first generation college student, and are in the areas of educational economics, public policy, and finance, with a primary focus on issues of college access, choice, and success for low-income and minority students. He has consulted on higher education policy issues with university systems and policymaking organizations in California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Washington, Washington DC, and West Virginia, and has testified in front of Congressional committees, state legislatures, and in federal court cases as an expert witness.
Before his appointment as Vice President of Operations in 2020, Dr. Heller was Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and a professor of education at USF. He was responsible for the university’s five schools, libraries, academic affairs, student life, enrollment management, online programs, international relations, and diversity and community outreach for the university’s 11,000 students,1,200 faculty, and 1,000 staff.
Prior to joining USF in January 2016, he was Dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University. Earlier appointments included Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education and professor of education and senior scientist at The Pennsylvania State University, and assistant professor of Education at the University of Michigan. Before his academic career, he spent a decade as an information technology manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Heller has published over 175 articles, book chapters and other publications, and his research has appeared in scholarly journals including the Journal of Higher Education, Review of Higher Education, Educational Policy, and The Journal of Student Financial Aid. He has been interviewed by and/or has published opinion columns in media including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Business Week, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Times Higher Education, The Daily Telegraph, National Public Radio, CNN Headline News, and Marketplace Radio.
He is editor or co-editor of six books, including: Student Financing of Higher Education: A Comparative Perspective (with C. Callender, Routledge, 2013), The States and Public Higher Education Policy: Affordability, Access, and Accountability (Johns Hopkins University Press, second edition, 2011), and Generational Shockwaves and the Implications for Higher Education (with M. d’Ambrosio, Edward Elgar, 2009). He has made over 250 presentations at scholarly conferences, policy and professional associations, and governmental organizations in ten countries around the world, and has been the principal investigator on over $1 million in grants. In 2012 he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of DePaul University, and in 2015, to the Board of Overseers of Bard College at Simon’s Rock.
Dr. Heller earned an Ed.D. in Higher Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and holds an Ed.M. in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard and a B.A. in Economics and Political Science magna cum laude from Tufts University.