State officials and business leaders have identified major workforce gaps in areas of strategic growth opportunity for Virginia. Our colleges, community colleges, and universities have a central role to play in meeting these pressing talent needs, preparing young people for lifelong success and contributing citizenship, and ensuring that all Virginians have affordable access to education and job opportunities. When it comes to achieving these goals, one size does not fit all here in Virginia. Indeed, a key reason our higher education system is the nation’s best despite ranking 37th in state support is that our institutions are innovative and entrepreneurial, with diverse missions and capabilities. That is why we favor institution-specific partnership performance agreements that spell out each college’s affordability plan, its initiatives to support Virginia’s economic and workforce goals, its strategic business partnerships, and its performance-enhancing reforms to improve quality and control costs.
A core strength of our top-performing higher education system is the entrepreneurial way the institutions have been allowed and encouraged to grow, pursue their varied missions, develop their distinctive brands, serve diverse student populations, promote innovation, attract business partners, and fund and manage their operations flexibly and efficiently. This has enabled the Virginia institutions to have a major positive impact on our economy and produce top results for students despite per-student spending that is generally at or below—and often well below—that of their peer institutions.
Preserving this variety, autonomy, efficiency, innovative capacity, and entrepreneurial spirit while at the same time better aligning institutional initiatives on talent, innovation, and affordability (and corresponding business partner contributions) with the Commonwealth’s objectives in those areas—is a primary reason we recommend development of institutional partnership performance agreements.
2019 SESSION RECOMMENDATION
- INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERSHIP PERFORMANCE AGREEMENTS: Expand the current six-year planning process to culminate in institution-specific partnership performance agreements that address major initiatives and mutual commitments (state investment and institutional performance) relating to (1) student affordability, access, and outcomes, (2) key state priorities on talent development, research/startups, and economic development, and (3) business partnerships and institutional reforms to improve performance and control costs.