Lobbying for Higher Education: How Colleges and Universities Influence Federal Policy

Article excerpt

Lobbying for Higher Education: How Colleges and Universities Influence Federal Policy, by Constance Ewing Cook. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998. 272 pp. $45.00 ($19.95)

The past two decades have shown a marked increase in government's willingness to turn a critical eye toward higher education. Levine (1997) attributes this change in government behavior to higher education's status as a mature industry. Others point to a near-saturated enrollment market as well as increased competition for public resources from other sectors--such as corrections and health care--as cause for increased government scrutiny (Gibbs, 1999). Regardless of the exact reasons for the change, political sagacity has become requisite for effective higher education advocacy at both the state and federal levels.

Constance Ewing Cook, in her text, Lobbying for Higher Education: How Colleges and Universities Influence Federal Policy, discusses government relations at the national level and specifically examines the lobbying efforts of the major Washington higher education associations. Cook's text is based in part on a 1994 survey, in which she obtained responses from more than 1500 college and university presidents regarding their membership, thoughts, and satisfaction with the Big Six and their federal relations efforts. The "Big Six" are the higher education associations ACE, AASCU, NAICU, AAU, AACC, and NASULGC. Cook's research builds on a similar unpublished survey, which was conducted in 1979 by University of Michigan professor Joseph Cosand. The findings from both studies provide a framework for Cook's analysis, as well as a basis for comparison regarding the need for, and effectiveness of, the Big Six's federal relations efforts over the past two decades.

In the opening chapters of the text, the author provides a historical overview of the Big Six and of the associations' early lobbying efforts. Cook devotes the remainder of the text to describing and analyzing the relationships among the Big Six as well as the lobbying efforts of these organizations during the 1990s. She illustrates that some of higher education's most important lobbying lessons have been learned by virtue of its failures. One example is the decision to award federal financial aid directly to students, instead of institutions, which was mandated by the 1972 Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization. The federal mandate for the creation of State Postsecondary Review Entities (SRPEs), part of the 1992 HEA reauthorization, provides another illustration.

The most critical challenge the federal higher education lobby has ever faced, according to Cook, was the arrival of the 104th Congress in Washington. This congress, which represented the first dual branch Republican majority since Truman's administration, had slashing spending as its primary agenda. Further, the Republicans perceived higher education as a relatively easy target. Higher education leaders were appropriately concerned about the change in congressional leadership, and the associations stepped up their lobbying efforts in response. They also utilized some different lobbying techniques, such as ad hoc coalitions and the mobilization of campus-based resources, in their effort to convince Congress of higher education's importance and need. …