2017 Higher Education Government Relations Conference

2017 HEGRC banner

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 to Friday, December 8, 2017
San Diego, California

“Advancing the Public Higher Education Agenda in a New Era.”

About the Conference

As higher education government relations professionals prepare for the 2018 state legislative sessions, a host of political, economic, demographic, and technological changes have ushered in a new, more complicated era for advancing the public higher education agenda. Greater political polarization has eroded public faith in some institutions, including higher education, and public college campuses have been caught in the middle of high-profile state budget stalemates and disputes over campus speech. State tax revenue growth, along with reinvestment in public higher education, has remained sluggish in recent years for many states despite low unemployment and growing economy. Rapid demographic and technological changes also present vexing new questions to policymakers and campus leaders on how to configure higher education for the next generation. As all these changes swirl, a pivotal mid-term election looms that could influence state and national politics for the upcoming decade. 

This conference is designed to help higher education government relations professionals from institutions, systems, and governing/coordinating boards understand and navigate this era. It will feature practical strategies on how individuals in these roles can build a broader base of support for public higher education, engage stakeholders, build coalitions, and employ effective government relations strategies. Participants will hear from a diverse array of seasoned professionals involved in all aspects of the legislative process for insight on how to best advance the public higher education agenda amid polarization, uncertainty and change. 

Now in its 24th year, the Higher Education Government Relations Conference is an educational forum for professionals whose responsibility it is to foster effective governmental and community relations on behalf of public colleges and universities and state systems of higher education. The conference reflects a unique partnership among four national higher education associations: the American Association of Community Colleges, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.  The conference is coordinated by government relations staff from these associations and the Task Force on Higher Education Government Relations, comprised of state governmental affairs professionals representing the entire spectrum of American public postsecondary education. 

Point of Contact:
Thomas Harnisch 
Director of State Relations and Policy Analysis
AASCU / harnischt@aascu.org / (202) 478-4660 (office)


The 2017 Higher Education Government Relations Conference serves as an exceptional venue for generating product/service visibility and professional networking.

Download Sponsorship Prospectus (pdf) to learn more about conference sponsorship opportunities
Download Sponsorship Application Form (pdf)

Schedule top

Preliminary Schedule

Check back for program updates

Wednesday, December 6

3:00 p.m.— 3:15 p.m. 
Conference Opening

Keynote Address: 

Being an Effective Advocate for Higher Education in Today’s Environment 

Ever-changing state political and economic environments have made advocating for public higher education more challenging than ever before. There is a growing national consensus that higher education —from certificates to professional degrees—is central to individual economic security and state economic vitality. Conversely, polls reveal fast-fading support for institutions of higher education among many members of society. Many lawmakers have touted ambitious state educational attainment goals, only to cut funding for institutions to help them achieve those goals. How can state government relations professionals make sense of the environment surrounding public higher education today? What advocacy strategies, messages and coalition partners will advance the higher education agenda, and which will not? Hear from a leading state higher education executive with substantial experience in state government and advocacy on how government relations professionals can be effective advocates for their campuses and systems in today’s complex policymaking environment.  

Speaker: Eileen Klein, President, Arizona Board of Regents

Plenary Session

The Growing Partisan Divide on the Value of College

5:30 p.m.— 6:30 p.m.
Opening Reception

Thursday, December 7

7:15 a.m.— 8:00 a.m.

8:15 a.m.— 9:15 a.m.
Plenary Session

The Economic Case for State Investments in Higher Education---and How to Make the Case to Lawmakers

With tuition increases and student debt rising, more headlines have focused on the value of personal and state investments in higher education. Recent polling suggests that members of the public are increasingly questioning the value of higher education. In this session, a nationally-known economist will outline the economic benefits of state investments in higher education, and two seasoned government relations will share their government relations strategy, and how they make the economic case to lawmakers.  

Speakers: Philip TrostelProfessor of Economics, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, University of Maine

9:15 a.m.— 10:30 a.m.
Plenary Session

Washington Update: Briefing on Federal Legislation and Policy Issues

With the new Congress and Administration, 2017 has been an active years for federal higher education policy and 2018 promises more action on key matters affecting public colleges and universities. This panel, consisting of federal government relations staff members from the conference’s four sponsoring associations, will provide the very latest involving federal higher education policy and funding priorities. Topics that the panel will cover include the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, immigration, possible changes to federal guidelines pertaining to campus responses to sexual assault, and the budget.  


Michael Zola, Vice President of Government Relations, American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)

Jennifer Poulakidas, Vice President, Congressional & Governmental Affairs, Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU)

Brian Flahaven, Senior Director for Advocacy, Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)

Jim Hermes, Associate Vice President, Government Relations, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)

Conference Roundtables

Session A (10:40-11:20) 

Session B (11:20-12pm)

12 p.m.— 1:30 p.m.
State Relations Award Luncheon

1:30 p.m.— 2:30 p.m.
When the Going Gets Tough: Public Higher Education Confronts Gridlock, Polarization, and Budget Volatility 

2:30 p.m.—  3:30 p.m.
Plenary Session 

3:30 p.m.—  4:15 p.m.
Advocacy Showcase

Friday, December 8

7:45 a.m.— 9:00 p.m.  
Affinity Group Breakfasts

9:00 a.m.— 10:00 a.m.   
Plenary Sessions

10:00 a.m.—11:00 a.m.
State Outlook: Summary of 2017 Higher Education Legislative and Funding Outcomes, and 2018 Economic and Policy Forecast 

11:00 a.m.— 11:15 a.m.   
Conference Closing

Fees top

Early Registration - $495 (Before November 17, 2017)
Late Registration - $550 (After November 17, 2017)

Registration Information top

How to Register
Please select among the two options below:

Accommodations top


Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina
333 W Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA 92101

Reserve accommodations directly with the Hotel at 619-234-1500. You will need to identify yourself as part of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and provide them your name, method of payment, check-in and check-out dates. 

Online reservations
Book your room for the 2017 Higher Education Government Relations Conference

Reservations Toll Free: 1-877-622-3056
Reservations Local Phone: 619-234-1500

Room Rates
$199/night +Taxes & Fees

If you have any questions about hotel accommodations, please email Danita Young youngd@aascu.org or call at 202.478.4677 

Cancellation & Refund Policytop

  • Cancel in writing by Nov. 24 to receive full refund.
  • Cancellations received after Nov. 24 will be charged a $150 administration fee that will be used to pay for meals and services already guaranteed at the hotel.
  • Cancellations received after December 4 will not be refunded.



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