Friday, February 4, 2011

Virginia Approves Higher Ed Funding Model

If Virginia can fix their higher education funding problem, why can't California do something similar?

RICHMOND, Va.—The Virginia General Assembly has advanced a package of higher-education overhaul legislation, which is aimed at fueling economic growth and preparing Virginia residents for high-demand jobs.

The House of Delegates voted 98-0 on Wednesday for the measure, which includes recommendations by Gov. Bob McDonnell's Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation and Investment. The Senate Finance Committee also voted Wednesday to send a similar measure to the full Senate.

The legislation focuses on economic development, making higher-education investments based on reform measures, and making college affordable and accessible for Virginia residents.

Another key component of the bill is a goal to adopt a sustainable, predictable funding model for public colleges and universities, which reduces pressure on schools to raise tuition to make up for funding gaps.

The bills include a new higher-education funding policy, including per-student funding that would be allocated to the institutions based on enrollment; provide for targeted financial incentives for schools that meet enrollment, degree-completion, graduation, and other benchmarks; the creation of a partnership between administration officials, legislators, and leaders in the corporate and scientific fields to help promote the growth in students pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields.

The measures also call for the formation of a Higher Education Advisory Committee, which includes representatives appointed by administration officials and the presidents of state higher-education institutions.

One of McDonnell's prime initiatives is to add 100,000 additional associate and bachelor's degrees over the next 15 years, to put Virginia among the top states in educational achievement and personal income levels. To that end, state institutions should increase overall enrollment; encourage the 900,000 working-age Virginians who have earned some college credits to finish their degrees; and boost college retention and graduation rates.

Sen. Thomas Norment, a co-sponsor of the Senate measure, said Wednesday that the legislation would serve as a roadmap or template for further retooling of Virginia's higher-education system

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