Kinder, Gentler Approach?

The Association of Private Sector Colleges is set to name Steve Gunderson, a former Republican congressman, as its next president, the for-profit trade group confirmed over the weekend.

Gunderson will bring a reputation as a bridge-builder to the post, somewhat of a departure for the association, whose previous president, Harris Miller, was pugnacious with the industry's critics on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

The former Wisconsin Representative has long been an advocate for traditional higher education. He was a finalist for the presidency of the University of Wisconsin System in 2004, and has spoken at conferences hosted by college groups that don't often see eye-to-eye with for-profits, including the American Association of Community Colleges and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. He also did consulting work for the American Council on Education.

Gunderson was a moderate during his 16 years in Congress. He is openly gay, and was outed by a fellow Republican on the floor of the U.S. House. He was the only Representative in his party to vote against the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Since leaving elected office in 1997, Gunderson has worked as a management consultant and, most recently, as president of the Council on Foundations. President Obama appointed him to the Commission on White House Fellows in 2010.

"It is my privilege to join such a well-respected organization that is working every day to ensure more students can access the American Dream," Gunderson said in a written statement. "If education reform defined our conversations over the past 20 years, access to postsecondary education will define our focus in the next decade."

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INSIDE HIGHER EDUCATION

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