Friday, December 28, 2007

Top Dann Aide Resigns Citing Personal Choice

Deputy First Assistant Brian Laliberte, who headed the criminal section of Attorney General Marc Dann's office, has resigned and will return to his former law office at Baker and Hostetler LLP in Columbus. Mr. Laliberte was one of Dann’s first hires after being elected to the post last November.

For Ohio colleges, the resignation is notable because Laliberte led the attorney general's student loan practices investigation. With ten attorneys and numerous paralegals and interns working on the project, the investigation has been more notable to date for the initial flurry of information-demand letters sent last spring to university presidents than for revelations of inappropriate activity. The impact of Laliberte's departure on the investigation is, obviously, unknown.

Dustin A. Holfinger

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Federal Funding Bill Passed and Sent to President

After months of bickering and politicking, the President is expected to sign the FY 2008 omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2764) that provides the funding for federal aid to students and other higher education programs. Congress used an across-the-board cut of 1.7% for all programs (except Pell grants) to accomplish the cuts necessary for the president's signature. Our national association, NAICU, outlines the process and the final product very well within their recent copy of Week in Review.

Dustin A. Holfinger

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Federal and State Legislative Wrap-up

The Statehouse is quiet and Congress has gone home; legislators are back in their districts gearing up for either the holidays or their next campaign push, whichever season motivates them more. The lobbyists and trade associations are accounting for wins, losses and draws—and prepping legislation for the next go-around in the new year.

Federal Issues

We are currently keeping an eye on federal legislation making its way through Congress before the winter break—specifically, H.R. 2764, an omnibus 2008 appropriations bill that wraps together nearly all annual federal spending. This bill accounts for $517 billion dollars in appropriated funds for domestic spending and earmarks including federal student aid and academic research.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required), “higher education is hardly the only area that faces reductions under the omnibus bill, which would finance every federal agency except the Pentagon. In an effort to bring the bill into line with the President’s proposed budget, Democrats reluctantly imposed a 1.7 percent across-the-board rescission on all domestic programs in the previous bills.”

We are also focusing on H.R. 4137, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (COAA). The bill would complete the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which was partially addressed in September with the passage of H.R. 2669, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. COAA was rushed through the U.S. House committee process in November, but faced widespread resistance by House members to moving it to the floor for passage in December.

The bill is likely to be passed in early February, which will lead to a conference with the Senate and its bill, S. 1642, the Higher Education Amendments. We expect COAA to be amended on the floor to significantly improve it compared to the committee-passed bill, although it is unclear whether independent colleges will be satisfied with its final terms.

State Issues

In the Statehouse, there are a number of bills awaiting passage on topics ranging from tests to books to law enforcement.

HB 347

Summary: House Education Committee Chairwoman Arlene Setzer’s (R – Vandalia) bill would remove the Praxis III test as qualification for receipt of a “professional license” for entry-year teachers, replacing it with a district-by-district assessment process.

Update: The bill is currently stuck in legislative limbo. With the House Education Committee not planning to meet until further notice, the Ohio Department of Education has plenty of time to formulate a position on the bill. AICUO has taken an official “neutral” stance on the bill as we have varying points of view from member institutions.

SB 151

Summary: Sen. Tom Roberts (D – Trotwood) has drafted a bill to attempt to slash prices of textbooks by requiring full price disclosure by publishers and unbundling by bookstores.

Update: The bill had two hearings in Senate Education Committee and has stalled since. On the federal front, U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), has been pushing a similar textbook bill, provisions of which are included in COAA.

SB 222

Summary: Sen. Gary Cates (R – West Chester), a member of the Ohio Task Force on College Campus Safety that was formed following the Virginia Tech shootings, proposed legislation to aid with the implementation of three key recommendations of the task force. His legislation focuses on adding a member of the Ohio Campus Law Enforcement Association to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission (OPOTC) and requires the OPOTC to develop recommendations for training peace officers in conducting law enforcement on a college campus. In addition, the bill provides qualified immunity to an officer or employee of a private college or university who reports a potential safety risk on the campus.

Update: AICUO has met with Sen. Cates to express our support for his bill. It awaits action in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and is expected to be heard again upon return in the new year.

Dustin Holfinger

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Intertwined in Every Way"

One conversation I regularly have with policymakers concerns economic and community development. Often, they think economic development means patents, contracts with businesses, and spin-off technologies. It is that, but the real impact of higher education includes the graduates who are available to fill job openings and create new jobs through entrepreneurship, and in many areas of our state, the deep link between colleges and their communities.

Oberlin President Marvin Krislov was interviewed by the Chronicle of Higher Education recently, and spoke about how the college and the town are “intertwined in every way” in a ten-minute podcast. Colleges are part of the fabric of their communities. They create a social climate that retains residents. They support their local school systems. Their students and staff support restaurants, shops, and bookstores. They make the arts real, instead of just what residents find with CDs, downloads, and pixels on-line.

His comments deserve a wider audience in Ohio, in part because that relationship is mirrored across the state: Ada, Springfield, Tiffin, Gambier, Alliance, Bexley, University Heights, and Westerville. The list goes on. These relationships are hiding in plain sight.

—C. Todd Jones

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mount Union Bid to Three-peat Falls at NCAA Division III Football Championship

AICUO member Mount Union College, among the very top of small-college football’s powerhouses, failed to win its third consecutive NCAA Division III football championship last Saturday, losing 31-21 to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, Va.

The Mount was hamstrung by an unusual profusion of turnovers, losing three fumbles, and by a second period goal-line stand that twice stopped star back Nate Kmic inches outside the end zone. The 10-0 Wisconsin-Whitewater lead marked only the second time all season that the Purple Raiders had trailed in a game, and the first time at halftime since 2005.

A late rally brought the Raiders to within 24-21 with 3:36 to play, but a 66-yard run by Gagliardi Award winner Justin Beaver — who gained 235 yards on the day — set up the clinching score for Whitewater.

In the end, Wisconsin-Whitewater ousted two AICUO members from the tournament, defeating Capital in the first round and Mount Union for the title.

—Bob Burke

Friday, December 14, 2007

Are You Ready?

More Americans need to be educated. Most people agree with this assertion but have difficulty describing it specifically. Our colleague association in Maryland has posted a fabulous little video produced by Anne Arundel Community College in that state that does just that.

The 3½ minute piece puts the case forward in a visually interesting way. My favorite quotes are “The top 10 jobs in demand in 2010 didn’t even exist six years ago,” and “Today’s colleges must prepare learners for jobs that don’t even exist, and to be skilled in technologies that have not been invented yet.”

There is one assertion that may merit a fact check (it’s the Belgium, Canada, Ireland, etc. reference), but the piece makes the case in a compelling fashion.

—C. Todd Jones

Friday, December 7, 2007

Why Blog?

The obvious question before starting a blog is: Why do it? Considering that the Internet is filled with countless mindless and mindful offerings, why should AICUO add another voice to the cacophony? The short answer is: because in our little corner of the world, nobody speaks with regularity, clarity, or utility.

Our world is Ohio higher education. And while there may be billions of electrons communicating the latest nonsense about drunk celebrities driving with their children, and the political musings of people who have not left their house to speak with actual people for days on end, the pickings are pretty slim here.

In Ohio higher education, we have new public forums for debating the governor’s plan for a “University System of Ohio.” We have occasional political views from the left and right about higher education. We also have solid coverage about higher education issues spread across numerous papers in our great state, which most people do not see because they receive, at most, one of those papers.

The problem is that no resource collects it all in a useful, readable way for the interested public. Starting today, that changes.

AICUO’s blog is intended to capture the now in Ohio higher education policy and politics. Make no mistake, we have a view. We believe that higher education is the key for this state’s long term economic revitalization. We believe that nonprofit, independent higher education institutions play a key role in educating Ohioans:

But this blog will be more than just another point-of-view dispenser. We will focus on the facts that affect all of Ohio’s higher education policy. Our state will see a decline in high school graduates soon. Ohio remains undereducated compared to other states, and it is a condition not uniformly spread across the state. These are facts that affect all of higher education, not just the independent sector.

AICUO’s goal in establishing this website is to become the indispensable source of higher education policy and politics in Ohio. We have first mover advantage in what is admittedly a boutique market. We hope to gain your interest and trust by linking to the news that is newsworthy, commenting on political developments that are relevant, and identifying policy trends that shape higher education in Ohio.

We will provide you with distilled, accurate information in a form that is easy to consume. We will unpack the jargon from the executive and legislative branches to get at its real meaning. We will also link to reports that you may not have see that are, or will be, or should be, changing policy in this state for the better (or worse). Some of our coverage will be international, some federal, some state, and some local. Some will draw on the observations of my colleagues in other states, or AICUO presidents, or admissions counselors, or even the entire campus community. All, we hope, will matter to you.

Lastly, we hope to be entertaining. I will be honest—I have been around education policy and politics for most of my career, and what little humor there is to be found tends to be unintentional. When Mount Union wins another football championship and Cedarville wins another Solar Splash, you will see it here. When Case Western Reserve adds another Nobel laureate, you will see it here. If you want to learn how Ohio State’s football coach’s compensation compares favorably to other Division I football coaches in Ohio, you will see it here. If a famous Ohio private college graduate and actress discusses her family plans . . ., well, you probably won’t see it here. (You would have to go here.)

Good reading to you.

—C. Todd Jones