Thursday, February 3, 2011


Todd, Stacey, and I are back in Columbus after a few days in Washington, D.C. for the NAICU 2011 Annual Meeting and legislative visits. While there, we were able to discuss pending higher education issues with colleagues from around the country and get the low-down from the NAICU government relations staff. We were joined by about twelve of our member presidents and several of their senior staff.

The first day was filled with information from the NAICU staff regarding the national budget, student funding, and tax provisions and what could happen to them in the near future. We all know that the deficit will shape policy in the coming months, but what will be affected, and how? The Pell Grant, the federal need-based aid program for low-income students, is priority number one and must be protected from potential budget cuts. We delivered this message to the offices of both of Ohio's U.S. Senators and staff from the offices of newly-elected members of Congress. (Members were in their respective districts for a scheduled district work week).

In the afternoon of the first day, we heard presentations from
Robert Putnam, The Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public
Policy at Harvard University. His presentation focused on his new book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. Mr. Putnam is an energetic individual that walked us through his views of the complex interaction of religion and politics over the past half century. Very interesting stuff. I was also able to catch the presentation by Mark Emmert, new President of the NCAA, and former president of my favorite collegiate football school, the University of Washington. Mr. Emmert discussed his new role and his priorities for the NCAA as it moves forward.

On the second day, much time was devoted to meeting with Senator Sherrod Brown and his staff, and the Chief of Staff for newly elected Senator Rob Portman. The college presidents were able to give their individual campus stories and explain how important the Pell Grant and other need-based aid programs are to students at their institutions.

Wednesday was full of meetings for Todd and me with staff of the newly elected members of the Ohio congressional delegation. We are encouraged by their enthusiasm and look forward to working with these offices as the 112th Congress moves along.

- Dustin A. Holfinger