Northwest State Community College President Michael Thomson was among 33 Ohio college presidents who met with legislators in Washington, D.C., to discuss policy at an annual conference hosted by Sen. Sherrod Brown.
The theme of this year’s conference was “A Deep Dive into Higher Education Act Reauthorization.”
“It gave Ohio college presidents a place to voice uniform support on key issues that will help our students access and complete their education,” Thomson said in a prepared release. “In a climate where politics often divides us, it was very heartening to see the Ohio Congressional delegation working together on a key issue — helping Ohioans access and complete education that leads to a higher quality of life.”
Issues discussed included a variety of topics that college leaders believe will help work toward that goal.
“The Ohio Congressional delegation spoke of strong bipartisan support in both houses for two key measures,” stated a press release from Northwest State Community College. “The first is reforming the federal aid form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA) from its current 180 questions down to 20 questions and a data exchange with the IRS to speed verification of financial aid eligibility.
“The second is using student federal financial aid for short-term education leading to in-demand jobs. The Ohio college and university presidents strongly endorsed these bipartisan measures.”
According to NSCC, the presidents also heard from several policy makers, including Trump Administration officials, about reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which was last done in 2008. Again according to NSCC, Congress wants to complete a reauthorization before the August recess.
Other key discussions focused on best practices aimed at improving student success.
“Of noted interest was reshaping educational systems to fit the adult learner, the effectiveness of free tuition policies in other states, providing non-college services to support students (e.g. daycare, transportation), smoother transfer processes between institutions and Ohio’s plans to implement an accelerated degree program,” the release stated.
Thomson also highlighted the organization’s willingness to “work together to help reach the 65 percent degree attainment by 2025.”
During discussions, college presidents heard from not only Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), but also U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge, Bob Latta, Steve Stivers, Bill Johnson and Warren Davidson.
Additionally, this week NSCC was announced as a member of the newly formed Ohio Workforce League, which a news release describes as a new statewide workforce team to help strengthen the state’s career-readiness training efforts and stay ahead of emerging job trends.
Specifically, Pete Prichard, director of Job and Family Services Workforce Opportunities at Northwest State Community College, will serve on the team.
“Northwest State is excited to collaborate strategically with other community colleges in Ohio to meet the workforce training needs of the state. Working more closely with other community colleges will create an opportunity to better leverage resources and to share best practices in workforce development,” said Prichard.
NSCC has long been a champion of workforce-based education in northwest Ohio, partnering with local schools districts, technical schools and businesses in a variety of ways from presentation to hands-on, for-credit experiences to promote areas like manufacturing jobs among area youth, in an effort to create and keep quality workers in the region over the long term.
According to the release, the new group will work with statewide business organizations and state leaders to address challenges and develop innovative solutions to help more adults learn new skills to compete in a technology-driven economy.
The group is being led by William Gary, a national “thought leader” on workforce development who serves as executive vice president of workforce community and economic development at Cuyahoga Community College.
“Our community colleges continue to answer the call to get more Ohioans job ready and on the path to careers,” said Jack Hershey, president and CEO of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges. “We know that workforce development is the most critical element for our state’s economic well-being in this new knowledge economy. Preparing workers for in-demand jobs and careers is a responsibility we take very seriously.”