Strickland meets with Ohio college presidents

The education leaders said they were impressed by the governor's interest.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Gov. Ted Strickland took some of Ohio's most educated leaders to school Monday, gathering dozens of college and university presidents for a daylong brainstorming session on a Columbus campus.
The meeting at Columbus State Community College brought together higher education leaders who often find their goals at odds. Heads of four-year universities sat down with those from two-year community colleges. Public institutions set goals alongside private ones.
"It was a very open, interactive conversation where he was listening intently," said University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs. "It's unique in my experience that a governor two weeks into his tenure spends 5 1/2 hours with a bunch of university presidents. Both the meeting and the grouping were extraordinary."
The meeting sought to figure out ways to make college more accessible; get more students to graduate and with better grades; muster research and development projects; and define how higher education can serve Ohio's work force.
Jacobs said the goal wasn't to answer all the questions, but to get the ideas of key leaders. Hot-button issues such as tuition caps, the tight state budget or the idea of making the chancellor of higher education report directly to the governor were mentioned only in passing, if at all, he said.
'Positive signal'
Curt Steiner, senior vice president at Ohio State University, said he took the meeting as a signal that Strickland will place increased importance on higher education's role in bringing the state out of its economic doldrums.
"Given the fact that it's so early in the administration, it's a very positive signal that the administration recognizes the important role that higher education plays," he said. "And higher education leaders are anxious to contribute to a turnaround of the state."
Last week, the Ohio Board of Regents released a report showing tuition costs at Ohio's public universities are nearly 50 percent more than the national average.
Meanwhile, the population is contracting, due largely to young people -- many college graduates -- leaving the state. Ohio's population of 20- to 44-year-olds fell from 4 million in 2000 to 3.9 million in 2005. The state saw a net loss of 25,000 college graduates between 1995 and 2000, according to one analysis.

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