Monday, January 17, 2011

McDonnell announces higher education legislation

Governor with Dr. William Harvey, Dr. Charles Steger, Heywood Fralin, Sen. Ed Houck

Based on recommendations of Governor McDonnell’s bipartisan Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation and Investment, which offered recommendations in 3 major areas: greater economic opportunity and impact; reform-based investment; and affordable access for all capable and committed Virginia students.

AFFORDABLE ACCESS: Provides enrollment-based funding to increase access for qualified Virginia students at public and private colleges and universities.

Enhances long-term affordability through a three-prong strategy: (1) puts in place a model for stable and predictable state funding support, relieving the upward pressure on tuition over time as state funding rebounds; (2) provides for development of need-based financial aid options aimed at middle-income as well as low-income families; (3) creates a Revenue Stabilization Fund (higher education rainy-day fund) to help buffer higher education funding against future cuts that produce sudden and sharp tuition spikes during economic downturns.

REFORM-BASED INVESTMENT

  • Provides for sustained reform-based investment and innovation in delivery of higher education services, as well as extending college degree opportunities to more citizens in creative, cost-effective ways. Institutions’ six- year plans will address strategies and use of incentives for:

– Year round use of physical facilities and instructional resources

– Technology-enhanced instruction and resource-sharing across the higher ed system

– Innovative and economical degree paths

– Ongoing restructuring and managerial reforms

  • Reverses the dramatic funding reduction cycle to higher education through a new comprehensive funding model framework with four components: basic operations and instruction; enrollment growth funding; need-based financial aid (for low- and middle-income families); and financial incentives to promote innovation and increased economic impact.
  • Establishes a comprehensive and streamlined six-year planning process to aid college, university, and executive and legislative branch officials in implementing the long-term policies of the “Top Jobs” Act and in improving coordination among institutions and the Commonwealth.
  • Creates a collaborative Higher Education Advisory Committee consisting of executive and legislative branch representatives and representatives of higher education institutions to develop performance criteria for incentives, institution-specific base funding policies, economic opportunity metrics for degree programs, opportunities for additional, cost-saving managerial autonomy and efficiency reforms, and other key policies.

ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AND IMPACT

Provides a roadmap for achieving an additional 100,000 undergraduate (associate and bachelor’s) degrees for Virginians over the next 15 years by (1) increasing enrollment of Virginia students, (2) improving graduation and retention rates, and (3) assisting students with some college credit to complete degrees through public and private higher education institutions in Virginia.

  • Focuses additional degree attainment in high-demand, high-income fields (e.g., STEM, healthcare) that are keys to top jobs in 21st Century economy. Provides for creation of a not-for-profit STEM public-private partnership to fully engage the business and professional communities in the strategic direction and promotion of STEM initiatives. Incentivizes public-private collaboration on STEM-related and other commercially viable research.
  • Higher education’s return on investment is second to none. The Weldon Cooper Center’s study for the Virginia Business Higher Education Council shows that every 1 dollar currently invested in Virginia’s public higher ed system yields 13 dollars in increased economic output. College graduates on average earn twice as much as those without college degrees.

RICHMOND – At an afternoon press conference at the State Capitol, Governor Bob McDonnell formally announced his “Preparing for the Top Jobs of the 21st Century: The Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011.” This legislation follows the recommendations made by Governor McDonnell’s Higher Education Commission on Reform, Innovation and Investment at its December meeting at Virginia Commonwealth University. McDonnell was joined at the press conference by Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson, Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey and Virginia Tech President Dr. Charles W. Steger. Also in attendance was former University of Virginia Rector Thomas F. Farrell II, who is Chairman, President and CEO of Dominion Resources and Chairman of the Higher Education Commission; and, Heywood Fralin, CEO of Medical Facilities of America, Inc. and Chairman of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council. The “Top Jobs” omnibus bill is being patroned by Senator Edd Houck (D-Spotsylvania), Senator Tommy Norment (R-Williamsburg), Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Delegate Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg), and all four joined the Governor at the press event. The legislation will be available later this week.

Speaking about the “Top Jobs” legislation, Governor McDonnell remarked, “Every student in Virginia deserves the opportunity to get a high-quality education at an affordable price. Virginia’s higher education institutions are among the best in the nation. However, we must increase access and ensure that we are adequately preparing our students for the jobs of tomorrow when they graduate. The ‘Top Jobs’ legislation will enable our institutions to meet the goal of issuing an additional 100,000 degrees over the next 15 years, making Virginia one of the most highly educated states in the nation. In fact, based on this legislation, for example, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors already is poised to add nearly 1,000 new spaces for in-state students on the University’s grounds, and that’s great news. Our legislation also places a greater emphasis on the high demand science, technology, engineering and math subjects through the formation of a public-private partnership that will engage the business and professional community in leveraging best practices for K-12 and higher education.”

Governor McDonnell continued, “The legislation will create the framework for sustained reform-based investment and will encourage meaningful innovation through the use of greater technology, year round facilities usage and innovative and economical degree paths. By implementing these reforms, more Virginia students will have access to Virginia institutions. These reforms will help us attract new employers to Virginia, and better prepare our citizens to fill the jobs that already exist in the state today. We must do better in providing an affordable quality education in Virginia, and we must look to better capitalize on the resources already available at our great institutions. This legislation is based on a clear understanding of what it takes to not only succeed, but to lead, in the 21st century economy – and, first and foremost, it takes a highly educated workforce.

The Governor added, “We have a good idea what this investment will produce for our state, because the Cooper Center’s comprehensive recent study, sponsored by the Business Higher Education Council, shows that every dollar we invest in the higher education system produces 13 dollars in additional economic output in Virginia. It returns even more in new tax revenues to the Commonwealth than it costs. So it is one of the very best economic investments we can make for our people. But we are not just investing; we are also innovating and reforming – and the two must go hand in hand.”

Delegate Kirk Cox remarked, “As a legislator, I believe reform and innovation are essential, even in a well run educational system like Virginia, because we live in times when the competition for tax dollars is fierce, and the competition for jobs and new business investment is ferocious. And only the most lean and cost-efficient approach, only the most creative and innovative strategy, only the most transparent and accountable planning and performance, will enable us to sustain public support and legislative will and come out on top in this competition.”

Senator Edd Houck also noted, “There is much about our higher education system for which Virginians are justifiably proud. We are all familiar with the steady string of national surveys that rank our colleges and universities among the very best in the nation. Other surveys highlight the exceptional value that our colleges and universities provide the Commonwealth and its students. At the same time, though, issues of affordability and accessibility are making the dream of higher education more and more difficult for low and middle-income Virginia families. Our system of higher education is at a crossroads. The time is now – right now – to take advantage of this singular opportunity for meaningful and comprehensive reform.”

Tom Farrell added, “Virginians can be particularly proud of the comprehensive and visionary nature of this initiative. The thrust of the legislation – economic opportunity, reform-based investment and affordable access – provides us with a very clear roadmap of what must be done to assure Virginians that their tax dollars are being spent wisely, that their children have access to the best education possible, and that we are building the right foundation for job creation, business recruitment and economic success for the Commonwealth in years to come.”

Heywood Fralin remarked, “Growing companies go where the best educated and prepared workers live. They follow research and innovation. They go where there is an excellent, efficient, accessible, and affordable higher education system. Let’s continue to make that location Virginia year after year.”

Dr. Bill Harvey commented, “The Commission’s work and the resulting proposed legislation recognize the important role Virginia’s independent colleges and universities play in providing the Commonwealth a qualified workforce. The focused nature of the potential funding incentives will allow us to serve an even larger number of Virginia students in the coming years, particularly in the STEM disciplines, which will help attract and retain top employers.”

Dr. Charles Steger concluded, “Many times recently, I have said that higher education in Virginia has reached its “tipping point”. With the introduction and passage of this legislation, the Commonwealth of Virginia is making a very clear and unequivocal statement about its priorities, and about the hopes and dreams of its citizens and especially its young people. This legislation recommits the Commonwealth to the principle of mutual trust and performance-based accountability that was at the heart of the restructuring initiative when it was launched five years ago. It is vital that we restore that principle, as the Top Jobs bill does, rather than continue to chisel away at it. The public colleges and universities in Virginia, according to JLARC, have met every expectation that was set for us under the Restructuring Act. We appreciate the commitment of the Governor and these legislative leaders to make sure the Commonwealth does the same.”

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Education, Finance, Politics, State Politics

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