About the Commissioner

Dr. Jim Purcell is the first Commissioner of Postsecondary Education for Jim Purcell sittingRhode Island. Appointed in 2014, he serves as the state’s higher education executive officer and coordinates the efforts of the two public universities (University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College) and the statewide community college (Community College of Rhode Island). He has served in similar capacities in Louisiana and Arkansas, and prior to that he served as the chief planning and research officer for higher education in Oklahoma.

An expert in institutional research and planning, Dr. Purcell focuses on implementing policies and programs that increase coordination among institutions, respond to workforce needs, expand access to higher education, improve student attainment, and increase transparency across the higher education system. He has won grant funding from state, federal, and private philanthropic institutions to support such initiatives, especially around developing strategies for adult degree completion.

Dr. Purcell has been recognized for his leadership in higher education by the University of Alabama’s College of Education and by the Southern Association of Institutional Research. Under his direction, Louisiana’s higher education system received an “A” rating from the US Chamber of Commerce for “establishing a policy environment that will create positive change.”

Hailing from Alabama, Dr. Purcell holds a B.S. in Public Administration from Auburn University, a M.Ed. in Counseling from the University of Montevallo, and an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Alabama. Over the course of his thirty-year career in higher education, he has worked in two-year, four-year, public and private colleges and universities across six states to bring forth the potential that exists within individuals and institutions. In his spare time, he enjoys exploring Rhode Island’s trails, beaches, and fishing holes.


 Commissioner Purcell in the News: