About Us

Partnership strategies designed to increase student enrollment, persistence, and graduation, adult learning and workforce outcomes of college graduates and the demographics that colleges experience as they serve students.

Successful

Recognized national experts who have guided state, system, and college policy and practice reforms from launch to implementation.

Experienced

Dr. Jim Applegate and Dr. Patrick Kelly bring decades of combined experience working in higher education policy and research.

Professional

The commitment will always be to adapt effective solutions to the unique demands of each state, system, or college.

Who We Are

Founding Partners

James Applegate, Ph.D. and Patrick Kelly, Ph.D. bring decades of combined experience working with states, higher education systems, and two and four-year colleges to develop innovative and effective policies and practices to meet the demands currently being place on U.S. higher education.

James Applegate

James Applegate

Senior Partner

Dr. Applegate spent his career in higher education and philanthropy developing policies and practices to dramatically increase college success, especially for underserved groups. He currently is a Visiting University Professor in the Center for Education Policy at Illinois State University and an international consultant on higher education. He previously served as the Executive Director for the Illinois Board of Higher Education. As the state higher education executive officer, Jim led a $2 billion higher education enterprise and efforts to dramatically increase college attainment, improve college affordability, and close opportunity gaps in Illinois. Jim served as Vice President and head of grant making for the Lumina Foundation. There he led development of new approaches to support increased degree production, fairness, and productivity in higher education. He advocated for improving education policy at the international, federal, state, and institutional levels. From 2000-08, Jim was chief academic officer for Kentucky. During his tenure Kentucky led the nation in higher education attainment increases. Jim served as President of the National Communication Association, the world’s largest association of communication scholars and the Southern States Communication Association. He was a professor and department chair at the University of Kentucky for 20 years also serving as University Senate Chair. He was an American Council on Education Fellow and serves on advisory boards and consults with numerous higher education organizations. He was a University Fellow and received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

Patrick Kelly

Patrick Kelly

Senior Partner

Dr. Patrick Kelly has recently been a research consultant at Exelencia in Education and was previously Vice President at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS). He leads many projects applying research and policy analysis to link higher education with the critical needs of states and their residents. Among these are: overall strategic planning to improve higher education policy, finance and outcomes-based funding, system-wide and institutional accountability, and linking postsecondary education to workforce needs and economic development. Patrick has led many of the analytical efforts to set educational attainment goals across the nation, including those for the Obama administration, the Lumina Foundation, and many of the states that have followed suit. He presents his work to a variety of audiences including state policymakers, State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEOs) and their staffs, higher education researchers and policy analysts, and a variety of other stakeholders.

Patrick has a Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs from the University of Louisville where he also earned a Master’s degree in Sociology. His undergraduate studies were completed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His areas of specialization and interest include research and statistical methodology, policy analysis, and program evaluation.

Who We Are

We Are Senior Higher Education
Advisors & Consultants

Their expertise covers state policy, finance, data use, curricular design, student support and partnership strategies designed to increase student enrollment, persistence, and graduation, and workforce outcomes of college graduates.

Our Story

Applegate and Kelly bring decades of combined experience working with states, higher education systems, and two and four-year colleges to develop innovative and effective policies and practices to meet the demands currently being place on U.S. higher education.

Our expertise covers state policy, finance, data use, curricular design, student support and partnership strategies designed to increase student enrollment, persistence, and graduation, and workforce outcomes of college graduates. Designed for the new demographic of the 21st century student market.

“The rules break like a thermometer,
Quicksilver spreads across the charted system…
Whatever we do together is pure invention,
The maps they gave us were out of date by years.”

Adrienne Rich

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Benjamin Franklin

Join Us

Our Clients Are Like Family

Whether the goal is to enhance revenue streams, identify barriers to student enrollment and success through sophisticated data use, increase efficiency and effectiveness, engage faculty, or implement state/system policies that maximize return on investment while minimizing unintended negative outcomes, Jim and Patrick can support identification and implementation of effective strategies gleaned from work with hundreds of institutions and multiple states over decades.