Abrupt leadership shuffle at Common App

February 26

The nonprofit organization that oversees the online Common Application for hundreds of colleges announced an abrupt leadership shuffle Wednesday, months after the rocky rollout of a redesigned application system.

Rob Killion resigned as executive director of the Common App, effectively immediately, said Thyra Briggs, president of the organization’s board. The organization is based in Arlington.

Briggs characterized the departure as a mutual decision and praised Killion’s 10-year record, which saw enormous expansion of the Common App. She said the organization is rethinking its leadership as it prepares to shift from a “virtual office” with eight full-time staff members to a brick-and-mortar office with 60 on staff.

The Common App drew strong criticism from students and college officials in early fall for technical glitches that hindered many applicants, counselors and admissions professionals. But many of those problems appeared to be ironed out in the ensuing months.

Asked whether Killion was forced out, Briggs said: “We had a conversation with him about moving forward with the leadership. At that point he stepped down. . . . This was a mutual decision.”

Killion said in a statement: “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past decade. Organizations need to grow and look toward the future, and I think it’s time for an organizational transition.”

Killion could not be reached late Wednesday for further comment.

The Chronicle of Higher Education quoted Killion as saying that he had been fired. Inside Higher Ed quoted Killion as saying that he was apparently being made a “scapegoat” for certain board decisions.

The Common App has 517 members, including George Washington, Catholic, Howard and American universities in the District as well as the University of Virginia, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the College of William and Mary and numerous others in Maryland and Virginia.

The Common App said that three of its executives — Scott Anderson, Chad Massie and Lesley Hargreaves — would provide interim leadership.

A former Post education editor, Nick writes about college from the perspective of a father of three who will soon be buried in tuition bills.
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