Dr. Debra Saunders-White was appointed by the White House and began her duties as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs (HEP) in the U.S. Department of Education in May 2011. She serves as the assistant secretary's chief advisor on higher-education programs administering more than 60 programs, totaling nearly $3 billion annually. HEP supports higher education facilities and programs through financial support to eligible institutions, and management of programs that recruit and prepare disadvantaged students for successful completion of college. Notable among its programs are the eight TRIO programs, institutional development programs for minority-serving institutions, teacher development programs, and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.
Prior to coming to Washington, DC, Dr. Saunders-White was one of the seven University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) senior officers and was chair of the UNC System Chief Information Officer Council. Dr. Saunders-White is an entrepreneur and non-traditional administrator. She is one of the few higher education professionals who combined a doctorate in higher education administration (The George Washington University) with an MBA (The College of William and Mary). Such scholarly experiences, which include an undergraduate degree in History from the University of Virginia, coupled with 15 years of corporate work experience allows for a unique perspective into the interrelationship between academic pursuits and resource management.
She has won numerous awards in higher education that focused on improving operational efficiencies. She is an author, has been recognized by leading magazines as a Cyberstar and as a top leader among higher education executives by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and American Council on Education. Dr. Saunders-White is a proud mother of two, Elizabeth Paige, who is a scholar-athlete at Temple University and Cecil III who entered the University of Virginia this fall.