Uniting for the Common Good

On Aug. 15, 2023, a little more than a year after first announcing their intentions, Otterbein President John Comerford, Ph.D., and Antioch University Chancellor William Groves, J.D., stood before an audience of faculty and administrators to reveal the formation of the Coalition for the Common Good, a first-of-its-kind national, private, non-profit system of higher education.

With affiliated universities convened around a shared mission rather than geography, the Coalition for the Common Good focuses on educating students not only to advance their careers, but also to promote our pluralistic democracy, and social, racial, economic, and environmental justice.

At a time when divisive politics drives our nation and higher education is under attack for its work in building diverse, equitable, inclusive communities, the Coalition is standing up for the common good — something its founding institutions have long histories of doing.

“The histories of our institutions are deeply rooted in providing equal access to all learners,” said Comerford, the newly appointed president of the Coalition for the Common Good. “Otterbein and Antioch were among the first colleges in pre-Civil War America to enroll Black students and women to learn side-by-side with White, male students and today Antioch and Otterbein continue that same focus of equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging.”

Comerford has frequently expressed his disdain for some aspects of American higher education, especially the pursuit of prestige and rankings by a narrow subset of exclusive universities who have an outsized impact on the American public’s view of higher education. “Otterbein University provides opportunity to low-income, first-generation, and Otterbein President John Comerford and Antioch University Chancellor William Groves during the coalition signing. Otterbein University and Antioch University representatives. marginalized students — as we have done from our founding — unlike these universities that chase prestige by denying as many students as possible to create an air of exclusivity. Higher education should be a common good, not a private good.”

President John With Chancellor William

Otterbein President John Comerford and Antioch University Chancellor William Groves during the coalition signing.

Comerford’s remarks are echoed by Lynn Pasquerella, president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, who said, “The Coalition for the Common Good offers an exciting, innovative model of excellence for revolutionizing and reimagining higher education in ways that position all students for success in work, citizenship, and life in the 21st century.”

Pasquerella was so impressed with the Coalition for the Common Good that she accepted an offer to become the Coalition’s ninth, independent member of its Board of Directors.

Built on the faculty expertise of both institutions, the Coalition combines members’ graduate programs to form a graduate division with a national scope, operated by Antioch University.

“Our universities have moved from being competitors to collaborators for the betterment of our students and communities,” said Comerford.

“We will leverage what each institution does best by bringing Otterbein programs to Antioch’s markets and Antioch’s programs to Otterbein’s central Ohio market. We will also collaborate on building or acquiring new programs that will benefit our students,” added Groves, the newly named vice president of the Coalition for the Common Good.


The Coalition for the Common Good also provides some immediate benefits for Otterbein undergraduate students. Those students now have access to Graduate Early Admission Pathways in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Art Therapy, and Business Administration (MBA), which allow students to apply during their junior year at Otterbein and then take three graduate courses during their senior year that count toward both their undergraduate and graduate degrees, accelerating time to graduation and reducing cost for the graduate degree.

There are immediate benefits for alumni, too. Otterbein alumni are eligible for a 15% tuition discount when enrolling in Antioch University degree programs.

Commission (HLC) and the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) came earlier this summer. The Coalition for the Common Good will expand to include other colleges and universities that share the universities’ long-standing commitments to preserving democracy; furthering social, racial, economic, and environmental justice; and providing access to those seeking to advance their lives and communities through education.

For more information about plans for this new national university system, visit www.otterbein.edu/system/.

Jefferson Blackburn Smith

Jefferson Blackburn-Smith is the Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. He has developed and implemented new partnerships with Central Ohio school districts and community colleges to create new opportunities to underserved populations to earn a higher education degree.

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