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Leadership Team

Mike Krause

Mike Krause

Executive Director

Mike Krause has served as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission since August 2016. In this role, he is responsible for oversight of a $2.1 billion budget and direct supervision of nearly $500 million in student aid. Previously, he served on the staff of Governor Bill Haslam as the founding Executive Director of the Tennessee Promise, coordinating the launch of the nation’s first tuition-free college program and serving as a senior advisor to the Governor on higher education. Before joining the Haslam administration, he held the role of Assistant Executive Director at THEC, leading a variety of initiatives within the academic affairs division.

Krause’s work on college access and financial aid has been covered by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education, CNN and NPR. He is a Woodrow Wilson Higher Education Policy Fellow, a recipient of the    Southern Regional Education Board Trailblazer award, and was named to the Nashville 40 Under 40 list.

Before entering state government, he served for eight years in the U.S. Army and Tennessee Army National Guard, where he completed three combat tours with the 101st Airborne Division. Krause earned his bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University and master’s in Public Policy from Vanderbilt University.

Scott Sloan

Scott Sloan

Chief of Staff and General Counsel 

Scott Sloan is the Chief of Staff and General Counsel for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. In addition to his duties as Chief of Staff, he is responsible for managing the agency’s legal and contracting functions, external affairs, and communications. Scott also represents THEC to the Tennessee General Assembly during the legislative session. In his time at the agency, he has collaborated closely with the legislature and other stakeholders in developing several key higher education initiatives. He assisted on the 2013 development of the Labor and Education Alignment Program (LEAP) as well as the 2014 passage of the Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act.

Before coming to THEC in 2012, he was the Director of Policy and Research for the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office. Prior to that position, he was appointed by Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey to serve as the Chief Engrossing Clerk of the Tennessee Senate. In this role, he was an officer of the Senate, enrolled legislation for signature into law, and published the annual Senate Journal. Scott is a licensed attorney and graduate of both Western Kentucky University and the Nashville School of Law.

Mike Krause

Emily House

Deputy Executive Director

Emily House serves as the Deputy Executive Director for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation.

Prior to assuming this role, Emily led the THEC/TSAC Research and Planning team as the Chief Research Officer. In this capacity, she developed and executed the State of Tennessee’s higher education research agenda, and worked with executive and legislative leaders to design, implement, and evaluate higher education initiatives including Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect.

Previously, Emily served as a Teach for America corps member, and currently teaches Statistics and Research Design courses to doctoral students at East Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University.

A native of Rochester, New York, House earned her Bachelor’s degree at Cornell University, her master’s of Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Michigan. She is a graduate of the Tennessee Government Executive Institute, and is the recipient of the inaugural THEC Presidential Fellowship.

Peter Abernathy

Peter Abernathy

Chief Aid and Compliance Officer

Peter Abernathy oversees THEC/TSAC’s legal and compliance division, which includes THEC/TSAC’s contracts, legislative affairs, rulemaking, and oversight of institutional compliance with the state’s grant and scholarship programs. Peter also provides assistance in coordinating the management of THEC/TSAC’s loan, outreach, and grant and scholarship divisions.

Before joining THEC/TSAC in 2008, Abernathy worked in the Department of Finance and Administration’s Budget Division for 12 years as the coordinator of K-12 and Higher Education’s budgets. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Tennessee, a master’s in public administration from North Carolina State University, and a J.D. from the Nashville School of Law.


Jason Cavender

Chief Financial Officer

Jason Cavender  oversees  the THEC/TSAC’s Division of Business and Finance, including  accounting, human resources and information technology functions.  Financial management responsibilities for the THEC/TSAC combined budget is over $400 million and includes funds for general operating expenses and the Tennessee Lottery for Education program.  In addition to these responsibilities, he serves as the liaison between the higher education governing boards and the legislature regarding any legislation having a financial impact in Tennessee.

Prior  to  coming  to  THEC/TSAC  in  2004,  Jason worked  in  the  Department  of  Finance  and Administration’s Budget Division for six years as the K-12 and Higher Education analyst. He earned a B.S. in History from Austin Peay State University and a M.Ed. from Tennessee State University.


Steven Gentile

Chief Policy Officer

Steven Gentile serves as the Chief Policy Officer and oversees the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Research. The Bureau, comprising the Research and Strategy Division and the Fiscal Policy Division, is charged with researching and developing policies and practices that make earning a higher education credential more attainable. The Bureau is also responsible for developing the state’s higher education appropriation request, completing all statutory reports, and supporting other divisions with data analyses and program evaluations.

Prior to joining THEC, Steven served as Assistant Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Davidson College in North Carolina. He moved to Nashville in 2012 and shortly after started as a graduate assistant in the Policy, Planning and Research division before starting a full-time position as Assistant Director of Fiscal Policy for THEC in 2013.

A native of Cullowhee, North Carolina, Steven earned his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Davidson College, his master’s of Higher Education Administration from Vanderbilt University, and his Doctorate of Education from Vanderbilt University.

Betty Dandridge Johnson

Betty Dandridge Johnson

Chief Academic Officer

Betty Dandridge Johnson oversees the Bureau of Academic Affairs and Student Success.  The Bureau promotes the development and operations of quality academic programs, student support services, and resource alignment for all students with an increased emphasis on veterans and students attending historically black colleges and universities. Other responsibilities include the development and evaluation of the Quality Assurance Funding program and implementation of grant projects to support teacher education programs and student success. The Bureau of Academic Affairs and Student Success also works closely with the Department of Education to align K-12 with higher education.

Prior to joining THEC, Betty served as the Institutional Effectiveness Officer at Middle Tennessee State University and was responsible for university-wide assessment and effectiveness of academic programs and administrative units. Her other higher education experience includes the University of Kentucky Community College System, Tennessee Board of Regents and Meharry Medical College. Betty holds a B.A. from Grinnell College and an M.S. from Vanderbilt University.