On his weekly conference call with reporters Wednesday, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Youngstown State President Jim Tressel joined forces to prioritize class enrollment for veterans.

Sen. Brown, who will run for a third term in 2018, outlined his legislation to ensure that veterans, servicemembers, and surviving spouses and children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty can take full advantage of their education benefits.

The Veterans Priority Enrollment Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), would extend priority enrollment for college courses to veterans, servicemembers, and eligible dependents who are utilizing GI education benefits. Ohio’s senior senator in Washington said that expanding priority enrollment would allow servicemembers and veterans to plan their semesters so that they can finish their degrees before their benefits expire.

Youngstown State University (YSU) President Jim Tressel joined the senator in emphasizing the importance of priority enrollment for veterans. President Tressel, a former head coach for the Ohio State University football Buckeyes, talked about what YSU is doing to court and cater to veterans, including waiving administrative and orientation fees, creating special orientation programs and affording them priority registration, offering veteran friendly courses, supporting a veterans advocacy group, giving special recognition at graduation and providing a 6,000 square foot resource center, he said in the only one he knows of in Ohio, and maybe the nation.

Sen. Brown also mentioned the Yellow Ribbon Improvement Act of 2017, which would expand eligibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program to recipients of the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry scholarship. The Yellow Ribbon Program helps students avoid out-of-pocket tuition and fees for education programs that cost more than the allowance set by the post 9/11 GI Bill, according to information provided by his office.

Brown’s office said that current spouses and children of servicemembers who died in combat may not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, while veterans and the spouses and children of servicemembers who elected to transfer their benefits may do so. This forces some military families to pay out-of-pocket for their education.

Rising College Costs

Gov. Kasich’s State of the State address last night included his belief that universities could be a thing of the past if rising costs are not addressed. President Tressel responded, saying that there was a time when playing Michigan kep him awake at night, but what keeps him up now is student debt.

Asked whether Ohio State University’s deal to outsource its energy needs is in his playbook for YSU, the former football coach said outsourcing big ticket items is one way to gain efficiencies that can translate into keeping college costs sustainable. He said the need to focus on educating students, whether they are veterans or not, can be advanced by looking at what services can be outsourced.

Sen. Brown weighed-in, too, saying he has spoken with OSU President Michael Drake about honoring wage and benefits for any outsourced workers.

Asked what his expectations are for a government shutdown at the end of the month, given the desire of Americans that this doesn’t happen, Sen. Brown said he can’t recall a time when congress, controlled by one party as it is now with Republicans in control, shut the government down. He said he’ll support efforts to move in the right direction, saying he’s urged Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch to make sure that mine workers health care is included in any package that comes to the floor for a vote.

President Tressel responded to a question on the impact President Donald Trump’s travel ban is having on international students at YSU. Mr. Tressel said he’s heard to bad news from his international studies department so far. Creating a global society that’s positive for domestic students as well, he said, is “incrementally improving.” He wants students from abroad to “enjoy and experience our culture,” adding that he wants to “create activities to create a culture of community regardless of country, gender, ideology or political interests.” With about 350-400 international students at YSU, President Tressel said the university is “on target to increase a bit.”

Sen. Brown doesn’t like the prospect of Senate Republican leaders opting for the so-called “nuclear option” that would enable Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, to be confirmed by a simple majority vote instead of the traditional 60-vote threshold. Instead of changing the rules, Sen. Brown would rather see a change in the nominee. Sen. Brown said his concern with Judge Gorsuch is that he’s supportive of a “new concept in American jurisprudence” that corporations are people. “That gives more rights to corporations than individuals, chooses corporations over workers, Wall Street over consumer protections,” he said, adding that so-called “dark money” in politics will be bad for everyone. “Do it down the middle than someone extreme,” he said.

Brown To Trump: Hold China Accountable On Trade

Later in the afternoon, Sen Brown said he’s joined 11 of his colleagues in a letter sent to the White House today, asking President Trump to hold China accountable on trade during his upcoming summit with Chinese President Xi. Candidate Trump promised during the campaign last year to get tough on China. Mr. Brown, elected first in 2006 and again in 2012, offered to work with the president, on behalf of workers who he says has the deck stacked against them due to China’s cheating. President Trump was asked by this coalition of Democratic senators to deliver on specific areas of trade.