When I first came to the Senate, I met with a number of higher education leaders around Ohio. In these conversations we realized how little opportunity the presidents of our colleges and universities in the area had to interact.
That’s where the idea for the College President’s Conference came from – like so many of the best ideas, it came out of conversations in Ohio, not in Washington.
For 12 years now, we’ve brought together presidents of two-year, four-year, private, public, and community colleges to discuss shared challenges and goals for students and institutions of higher learning.
We have such diversity in higher education in Ohio – this year at the conference we had 34 college presidents from all across the state.
The purpose of the conference isn’t only for the presidents to hear from experts—it’s for the experts, and for me and my staff, to hear from our Ohio leaders in higher education.
That’s particularly important right now, as Congress considers reauthorizing and updating the Higher Education Act (HEA).
The presidents of Ohio schools need to be part of this conversation. They’re the ones who know their schools best – they know what innovations are working, and they know the biggest challenges their students face.
This week I talked with Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, President of Central State University in Wilberforce. Dr. Jackson-Hammond emphasized the need to increase access to higher education in Ohio.
In last year’s bipartisan Farm Bill, I worked with Senator Portman to right an historical wrong and make sure that all 1890 Land Grant Universities, including HBCUs like Central State, have access to the funding they deserve.
Central State had been denied that funding for too long, and that’s the kind of issue we want the presidents to bring to us at this conference.
Our higher education system is one of our state’s greatest assets. But we know we have more work to do to make it more affordable and accessible to all Ohioans, and to make sure that students are actually completing their degrees and getting the most out of their education.
Those are some of the challenges we have to tackle in any HEA legislation, and that we’re discussing at this conference.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic U.S. Senator representing Ohio.