Product of collaborationCollaboration often is easier to talk about than to achieve. Challenged by John Kasich, Ohio's public colleges and universities have shown they are up to it. In the process, they have done much to advance the idea of the institutions as a functioning system of higher education.The governor gave the 37 schools a tight time frame to submit a single capital-funding request that captured their priorities within the reality of the state's strained resources. On Wednesday, the Higher Education Capital Funding Collaborative, led by Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee, delivered a unified funding proposal, stressing its systemwide, strategic approach.Until now, universities and colleges have engaged in an each-for-itself fight for state funds, the chances of funding determined by formulas and by lobbying clout at the Statehouse.The $350 million request submitted last week represents a radical shift, featuring a more prominent place for the interests of the state as a whole. Together, the schools have clarified principles and guidelines for funding, while addressing key structural and workforce priorities without short-changing individual institutions.For instance, mindful of immediate workforce needs as the shale-gas industry grows, the panel recommends Stark State College receive $10 million for an Energy Industry Training Center. Among the many line items, the University of Akron is up for $16 million to renovate Zook Hall, a recognition of the need for long-term maintenance to protect the huge investment in facilities. In the category “engineering meets science,” Kent State University is in line for the same amount to repair Cunningham, Smith and Williams halls and for multidisciplinary research labs.The governor has applauded the proposal as unprecedented -- and for good reason. Faced with a tight budget, he has provided the essential leadership, pounding home the message of “cultural change” in how state operations are conducted.