Same State, Different Sectors

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Same State, Different Sectors

Inside Higher Ed – As college presidents from across Ohio gathered here Wednesday at an annual  meeting with Senator Sherrod Brown, they dealt with plenty of familiar issues:  the future of Pell Grants, the Obama administration’s plans on college  affordability, the need to attract more students to science and math.

Many of the presidents had a more basic question: Why does it take a flight  to Washington to get Ohio’s community colleges, public universities and private  colleges to sit down at the same table for a discussion?

“We really should do this more often,” a community-college president said to  a four-year counterpart during a break in the meeting. But aside from Brown’s  annual conference, she said, the colleges never do.

Since 2008, Brown, a Democrat, has invited his state’s college presidents  (except for those of for-profit colleges) to a daylong meeting on higher  education issues. While many college leaders meet with lawmakers one-on-one on  periodic visits to Washington, Brown’s large group approach is unusual,  gathering about 50 presidents every year to trade ideas, discuss statewide  education issues and meet with policy experts. The college leaders praise the  annual meeting as a combination of a legislative briefing and a networking  event.

For Brown, the meeting burnishes his credentials as a supporter of higher  education, as well as providing ideas for future legislation. The forerunner of  the annual conference, a series of roundtable discussions Brown held with  college presidents after being elected to the Senate in 2006, led to amendments  he proposed in the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, Brown said  in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. The roundtables taught him  something else: that many college presidents in his state didn’t know one  another. The annual meeting was a result.

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