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
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Schedule top

Download final program in PDF format

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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 

Eileen KleinEver-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

New polls suggests that a stark political divide has emerged in public opinion on higher education. A July Pew survey indicated that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now believe that higher education has a negative effect on the country. This survey is a sharp change from two years ago, when a majority said that higher education was having a positive effect on the country. Likewise, an August Gallup poll revealed that only 33% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have a great deal of confidence in higher education. What are the rationales behind these viewpoints? Do they reflect a new reality for American higher education? Hear from a politically diverse panel that will provide perspective on the public views of higher education, and offer insight into how campus officials can strengthen public support for higher education. 


Peter Wood
, President, National Association of Scholars

Scott Jaschik, Editor, Inside Higher Ed 

Barbara Damron, Cabinet Secretary, New Mexico Higher Education Department

Shaun R. Harper, Clifford and Betty Allen Professor of Urban Leadership, USC Race & Equity Center, University of Southern California

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

Thursday, December 7

7:00 a.m.— 8:00 a.m.

Plenary Session
Update on Voluntary System of Accountability, Voluntary Framework of Accountability, and the Student Achievement Measure (SAM)


Elise Miller, Vice President of Research and Policy Analysis, Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) (Powerpoint)  

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

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 state relations professionals will share their government relations strategy, and how they make the economic case to lawmakers.  


Philip Trostel
Professor of Economics, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, University of Maine (Powerpoint)          

Constance Brooks, Vice Chancellor for Government & Community Affairs, Nevada System of Higher Education (Powerpoint)         

Jessie Ryan
, Executive Vice President, The Campaign for College Opportunity (Powerpoint)

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)

Plenary Session
Conference Roundtables

This 75-minute session will consist of three 25-minute discussion sections on key areas of higher education government relations. Each section will consist of a 5-7 minute TED-style talk and prompt questions to the audience, 10-15 minutes of audience discussion at their tables, and using the balance of the time to allow the audience to report back on their table discussion. 

Section 1: Student Advocacy (Powerpoint

Section 2: How are States Trying to Meet Their Educational Attainment Goals? (Powerpoint)           

Section 3: Separating Fact from Fiction on University Foundations (Powerpoint

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 

The last several years have been marked by increasing discord over state budgets and higher education funding, with the 2-year Illinois budget impasse providing the extreme example of political dysfunction. With more states having protracted budget sessions, deeper political polarization, and significant volatility in higher education budget proposals, how can state government relations professional rally support for higher education? What are the most effective strategies for individuals in these roles to pursue in a budget impasse or after a budget proposal that makes deep cuts to public higher education? How do individuals build advocacy strategies that anticipate and account for this new era of brinksmanship? 


Kim Rueben, Senior Fellow, State and Local Finance Initiative, Urban Institute (Powerpoint)

Jennifer Creasey, Director of State Relations, University of Illinois System (Powerpoint)

Mathew D. Muñoz, Government Relations Manager, University of New Mexico

2:30 p.m.—  3:30 p.m.
Connecting Policymakers to Campus Constituencies: Challenges and Opportunities

While government relations professionals remain a critical link between the campus and state and federal governments, policymakers and their staff increasingly want to speak directly with faculty members, researchers, scientists, and others in the campus community. Individuals in these roles provide insight and solutions into policy challenges, highlight cutting-edge research leading to job growth, and offer technical assistance on a wide variety of issues. Nevertheless, effectively communicating the work done on campus can be difficult, and cultural differences can sometimes hinder this relationship. Hear from a panel of experienced government relations professionals and scholars on how to integrate faculty and other key campus constituencies into government relations programs and improve communication between thought leaders on campus and policymakers in the capital. 


Laura Lindenfeld Sher, Director, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, Stony Brook University (N.Y.)

Sarah Caldwell Hancock, Communications Coordinator, Kansas State University

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

In this session, participants will discuss their campus or system approach to advocacy, including legislative strategies and coalition development. The presentations will be short (5 to 8 minutes) in order to accommodate as many campuses and systems as we can.  

Georgia Tech Statewide Advocacy Tour (Powerpoint

Hard Hats for Higher Education (Powerpoint)

A Capital Bond Issue: Friend Raising and Fundraising at Cuyahoga Community College (Powerpoint)

Systemwide Advocacy Strategies (Powerpoint


Friday, December 8

7:00 a.m.— 8:00 a.m.  
Affinity Group Breakfasts

8:00 a.m. — 9:00 a.m.
How Could Proposed Federal Policy Changes Affect States and Public Higher Education?  

As states struggle to maintain funding for higher education today, Congressional lawmakers have proposed measures that could dramatically reshape the existing state-federal arrangement on key issues ranging from Medicaid to taxes. Some of these proposals would give the states more authority over key programs in exchange for substantially less funding, leaving states to make difficult budgetary decisions. In addition, proposed federal tax reform legislation would significantly alter state revenue. Hear from a panel of national and state experts on how proposed changes from Washington could affect state budgets and funding for public institutions of higher education. 


Michael Mitchell, Senior Policy Analyst, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Chris Hoene, Executive Director, California Budget & Policy Center

9:00 a.m. — 10:00 a.m. 
Update on the Free College Movement  

Since 2014, there has been a growing national policy movement to provide students, particularly those at community colleges, with a tuition-free education. Currently, five states have tuition-free options, and a few other states have tuition-free programs for two-year and certificate programs linked directly to available jobs in the state. After several years of these programs, what have been the successes and shortcomings? What do government relations professionals need to know as more states pursue this route to college affordability? Here from a panel of national and state higher education leaders who are well versed in these free college policies and their effects for states, institutions and students.  


Martha Kanter
, Executive Director, College Promise Campaign (Powerpoint)

Brett Rowlett, Director of Public Affairs, Lane Community College (Ore.) (Powerpoint)         

Tim Sheehan, Vice President for Government and Community Relations, Salt Lake Community College (Powerpoint)

10:15 a.m.—11:15 a.m. 
State Outlook: Summary of 2017 Higher Education Legislative and Funding Outcomes, and 2018 Economic and Policy Forecast

The session will provide the latest analysis on national and state economic conditions affecting budget revenues in the near-term, along with the outlook for budgets, state financial aid, capital outlays and other key higher education policy issues in the 2018 legislative session. The presenters will also outline how the upcoming 2018 elections would affect the political power dynamics of state legislatures and governor’s offices and the ramifications for the higher education community. Key takeaways from the 2017 legislative session will also be discussed.     

Kim Rueben, Senior Fellow, State and Local Finance Initiative, Urban Institute (Powerpoint)                   

Thomas Harnisch
, Director of State Relations and Policy Analysis, American Association of State Colleges and Universities (Powerpoint)

Shannon Gilkey, Director, Education Strategy Group (Powerpoint) (Handbook


11:15 a.m.— 11:30 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----SOLD OUT (SEE HOTEL OVERFLOW) 
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

Hotel Overflow

Due to an overwhelming demand and the San Diego meeting location, the Marriott Marquis is sold out on one or more nights during the HEGRC meeting.   

However, we have secured hotel accommodations at an overflow hotel located nearby. To reserve hotel accommodations at the Embassy Suites San Diego Downtown, Click Here to reserve online or call the hotel ASAP but no later than November 21 and identify yourself as attending the HEGRC 2017 meeting.   Please reserve accommodations prior to the November 21 cutoff by dialing 1. 800.EMBASSY (362-2779) or 619.239.2400 

Note: After November 21, rooms may be available but at a higher rate.


Embassy Suites by Hilton San Diego Bay Downtown
601 Pacific Highway
San Diego, CA 92101

Embassy Suites San Diego-Downtown

Bay View Suite Accommodations are available at the group rate of $189 plus 12.708% tax 
Complimentary wireless access in all guest rooms, with complimentary breakfast buffet and nightly reception.  RESERVE NOW!

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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