The 2019 Session of the Virginia General Assembly adjourned Sunday, February 24, 2019, and delivered a loud-and-clear message: Virginia’s bipartisan leadership recognizes we have a top-performing higher education system and is committed to reform-based investment in college affordability and talent development in the Commonwealth.
With approval of new higher education investments totaling $134 million and passage of key legislation on institutional partnership performance agreements and tech talent, the General Assembly took major steps to improve college access for young Virginians and align higher education programs with state economic development efforts.
“The members of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council greatly appreciate the General Assembly’s forward-looking leadership in addressing college affordability and preparing the talent needed to drive economic prosperity,” said VBHEC Chairman G. Gilmer Minor III. “We applaud them for recognizing that investment in higher education delivers the greatest return for Virginians and our economy.”
“I am pleased that the General Assembly is focusing on performance and reform based investment in higher education—an approach that recognizes the distinct strengths of each our colleges and universities,” said Dennis Treacy, Treasurer of VBHEC and Rector of the Board of Visitors at Virginia Tech. “The concept of partnerships between individual colleges, the Commonwealth, and the business community is a powerful idea that will produce educational and economic benefits for all Virginians.”
Legislation and budget action addressed the following Growth4VA priorities:
Growth4VA advanced varied options for addressing college affordability, nearly all of which were embraced in the adopted budget. The total new investment for the next fiscal year totals $81 million:
- $57.5 million in tuition moderation incentives, available to public institutions that opt to forego tuition increases for in-state undergraduate students
- $15.5 million increase in student financial aid at public colleges, universities, and community colleges
- $3.5 million increase for TAG Grants at private colleges and universities
- $500,000 increase in an innovative new pilot program to promote business-higher education collaboration on internships
- $4 million for workforce credential grants
Growth4VA called for new state investment to dramatically increase the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science, information technology, and other high-demand areas that are state priorities for talent development. The General Assembly passed legislation creating a tech talent development fund that allows individual institutions to reach agreements with the Commonwealth on measures to enhance the “tech talent pipeline” in Virginia, and it supported key investments, including:
- $16.6 million in new funding to increase the number of computer science and information technology degrees
- Preservation of $20 million approved for the “Cyber X’ Initiative by the General Assembly in the 2018 Session, an initiative that focuses on cybersecurity research commercialization and workforce preparation.
Institutional Partnership Performance Agreements and Internships
Growth4VA promoted legislation that would authorize Institutional Partnership Performance Agreements between individual colleges and universities, the state, and key partners, including business organizations. The agreements would provide for collaboration on affordable access and cost predictability, talent development, research commercialization, economic development, business process improvements, and other key priorities. The General Assembly approved the concept, authorizing up to 6 agreements to be negotiated each year, and added language making permanent the new state fund that promotes business-higher ed collaboration on internships.
Faculty and Staff Salaries
Growth4VA recognizes that it takes top talent to train top talent, so supporting recruitment and retention of faculty and staff are key components of success for Virginia’s higher education system. The Governor’s introduced budget included funding for a 1 percent bonus in addition to the 2 percent salary increase for faculty and staff approved in the 2018 Session. The adopted budget eliminates the bonus and instead increases faculty salaries by an additional 1 percent – to a total of 3 percent – at an estimated additional cost of $15 million. It also provides a larger salary increase for college staff instead of the proposed bonus.
The Governor made no amendments to the higher education budget when he signed the Budget Bill into law on May 2.