Senior Leadership

Mike KrauseMike Krause, Executive Director

Executive Director

Mike Krause was appointed as the executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) by Governor Bill Haslam in August 2016. 

Prior to assuming this role, he served as the founding executive director of the Tennessee Promise and Drive to 55, where he coordinated the launch of the nation’s first free community college program and an array of other programs focused on increasing state higher education attainment.

Previously, Mike served as the assistant executive director at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, leading a variety of initiatives within the Academic Affairs Division. 

Krause also served for eight years in the United States Army, where he completed three combat tours with the 101st Airborne Division. An eighth generation Tennessean, Mike earned his bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University and Master’s degree in Public Policy from Vanderbilt University.

Scott SloanScott 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.

Peter AbernathyPeter Abernathy

Chief Aid and Compliance Officer

Peter Abernathy oversees THEC/TSAC’s Student Aid and Compliance bureau, including 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.

Prior to coming to THEC/TSAC in 2008, Peter 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 B.A. 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 Fiscal 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 6 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.

Emily HouseEmily House

Chief Research Officer

Emily House is the Chief Research Officer for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. In this capacity, Emily develops and executes THEC’s research agenda, investigating issues in higher education related to access, affordability, retention, and completion. Her team publishes the set of annual legislative reports for which THEC is responsible, and responds to requests from legislators and policymakers for data and information. Emily facilitates THEC’s involvement with the Tennessee Longitudinal Data System, and works very closely with Governor Haslam’s staff to design, implement, and evaluate the effects of various Drive to 55 initiatives, including the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs.

Emily holds degrees in public policy from Cornell University, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Michigan, and has a PhD in education from the University of Michigan.

Betty Dandridge JohnsonBetty 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 adult learners, 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.