Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Veterans Affairs Dept. Releases Final Yellow Ribbon List

A count by AICUO finds that at least 45 Ohio independent colleges and universities submitted Yellow Ribbon participation agreements to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The deadline for signing up for the new veterans' student assistance program, which goes into effect August 1, was June 15.

The VA released its final list of program participants on Wednesday. As of late-day, the VA's state-by-state list included approximately 600 private, nonprofit participants - well above expected projections.

We are pleased with the high level of interest that our institutions have shown in serving student veterans, through the Yellow Ribbon program and other campus aid resources, especially given the economic pressures of the time and the administrative hurdles associated with implementing a major new federal program.

This legislation is a critical investment in the nation's veterans, and a prime example of how by working as partners, the federal government, colleges and universities, and others can pool critical resources to enhance student access and affordability.

--Dustin A. Holfinger

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Credit Card Marketing Bill Passes House

This afternoon, the Ohio House passed HB 12, sponsored by Rep. Matt Lundy (D - Elyria) by a final vote of 69-25. The bill would limit the marketing that a credit card company can conduct on a college campus. The bill received a surprising amount of floor discussion following a lengthy series of meetings with interested parties, including AICUO.

On the floor, several members from each side of the aisle spoke in support of the measure to curb credit card marketing, calling the gift give-aways "eye-candy to students." Rep. Lundy spoke about discussions with public and private campus representatives and other interested legislators, saying that the talks were productive and that common ground had been found. Lundy then offered a floor amendment to remove the prohibition on use of student directories for "for-profit" ventures; to specify that ads intended for the general public in local non-campus newspapers would not violate the legislation; to require that solicitors must not allow students to sign up for credit cards; and to permit required financial literacy courses at public and independent colleges to be conducted either during the first semester of the students' freshman year or orientation as originally provided in the bill.

A handful of Republican legislators stated that they could not support the bill because of its educational requirements for independent campuses.

AICUO participated in the interested-party policy-development process in the run up to floor action, and worked with Rep. Lundy to clarify a few provisions within the bill, specifically the prohibition on usage of student directories. If untouched, that provision would have disallowed campus bookstores to send flyers to students for ANY promotional sales or advertisements, among other significant impacts.

AICUO will continue to follow this bill as it moves over to the Senate for further consideration.

--Dustin A. Holfinger

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Operating Budget Voted out of Senate Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Committee voted out HB 1, Operating Budget legislation, along party lines today (9-4). The Senate version of the $54 billion appropriation bill scrapped the House version and even cut into provisions Governor Strickland saw as priorities in his executive budget.

Higher Education, for the most part, stayed away from the policy discussion while K-12, and state park oil drilling stole the attention of the committee members. AICUO member-institutions saw no additional changes to provisions changed in the initial Senate sub bill. Funding levels for independent college students did see a decrease from the House-passed version after the Senate's changes but will have equal-status inclusion in the Choose Ohio First Program.

The Tuition Trust Authority saw some tweeks and changes to its governance model. Vice Chairman, Senator Mark Wagoner (R - Toledo) explained the provision, that's included within the omnibus amendment, that the Ohio Board of Regents will house the Tuition Trust Authority and the Senate's version will provide a hybrid version of board oversight. The Chancellor, Eric Fingerhut, and the Board of Regents will obtain more cost controls while maintaining OTTA sovereignty.

The House of Representatives is unlikely to confer on Senate changes sending the bill onto conference committee. That process will start after the bill passes the full Senate, expected to happen tomorrow afternoon in what could be a very long session. The conference committee will have a difficult task, there is still at least $250 million at risk of being cut as a result of the dreary state revenue numbers.

AICUO staff will continue to monitor the legislation and keep members updated.

--Dustin A. Holfinger