Governor's Higher Ed Commission Holds Second Meeting
Yesterday Governor Bob McDonnell’s Commission on Higher Education Reform held its second meeting. Craig Carper reports.
When Governor McDonnell created the commission by executive order in March, he tasked them with increasing access and affordability to Virginia’s state universities with the goal of awarding 100,000 more degrees over the next 10 years.
Currently, the total enrollment at two and four-year universities in the Commonwealth is approximately 315,000. Last year, approximately 42,000 undergraduates received a degree and another 15,000 received graduate degrees.
Addressing the commission yesterday, McDonnell said the status quo of higher education is unacceptable.
McDonnell: Currently only about 38% of Virginia kids are able to go to a Virginia university. I’ve heard from parents all over the state that raising tuitions 100 percent in 10 years, 10 percent a year, is not a sustainable level for kids in Virginia.
The Governor is also calling for a greater emphasis on what is called STEM curriculum or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, as well as Health Care. McDonnell says we are falling behind many other developed and developing nations in these areas.
McDonnell: Over the long term, we’re talking about investment that ranges in the billions of dollars and literally hundreds of thousands of jobs that can be generated by a change in our funding formula and a change in the number of degrees that we confer in Virginia.
The Governor called for a greater commitment from students, who he said cannot consider failure an option.
McDonnell: Taxpayers spent about 178 million dollars for young people that started their college degree and then dropped out in the first year, about 35,000 of them. That’s unacceptable, and I think we’ve got to figure out, what do we do to keep those young people in school and what disincentives are in place so that the taxpayer isn’t losing money when people fail to complete their commitments?
McDonnell also committed to search for ways to better fund universities, who have endured state cuts every year for the last decade.
McDonnell: It’s clear that a big reason that the tuitions have gone up is because the state support has declined. Even with a stable operating budget, you’ve still got to be able to have the money coming from somewhere. If it doesn’t come from the state, you’ve asked it to come from parents. I kinda look at this as a new compact between the state and our leaders in higher education. We provide more resources, you use them more wisely, and we focus on innovation, results and jobs.
Republican Delegate Kirk Cox is Vice Chair of the commission; he said part of this funding will be found by partnering with universities to create efficiencies and a new model for how they deliver education.
Cox: Using these facilities year-round, using technology for these large lecture classes and frankly, some of these courses that are obscure, low-demand courses, there’s no reason why you can’t have a professor teaching them at one school and you see them by videoconference in others.
The commission is scheduled to deliver their interim report November 30th, which will lay the framework for their legislative proposals for the 2011 General Assembly session.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square