Growth4VA Proposes $880 Million Investment in Higher Education

Governor, General Assembly urged to seize the once-in-generations opportunity to make Virginia the Top State for Talent and Improve College Affordability

October 14, 2021

RICHMOND, VA – Today, business leaders representing the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) announced Growth4VA’s proposal for a $880 million state investment in higher education in the coming biennium – a performance-based investment focused on creating affordable talent pathways that lead to Virginia-based internships and post-graduation employment for Virginia students.

At the virtual event, business leaders said investment decisions made in the 2022 legislative session will be pivotal for Virginia’s economy and future. The Commonwealth has a once-in-generations opportunity to invest because of Virginia’s large budget surplus, unallocated federal relief funds, and growing state revenues. Growth4VA will urge the Governor, General Assembly, and incoming governor to give priority to developing and retaining talent for in-demand Virginia-based jobs and to providing all Virginians with affordable pathways to excellent career opportunities.

State funding of higher education in Virginia remains well short of the state’s commitment in 2011 to fund 2/3 of the educational cost for in-state students. Additionally, Virginia lags far behind neighboring states in higher education investments. For example, North Carolina invested $10,742 per student in 2020 while Virginia provided only $6,519 per student.

(Click the image to play the video)

A copy of the presenters’ prepared remarks may be accessed here.

Dennis H. Treacy, chair of VBHEC/Growth4VA and senior counsel of ReedSmith LLP, said, “Here’s our vision:  We want to give every young Virginian access to an affordable talent pathway that provides a marketable degree or credential and path to a great first job here in Virginia. Along these pathways from learning to earning, we want every Virginian to have the opportunity for a paid internship or other work-based learning experience with a Virginia employer. And we want to open these pathways of opportunity for everyone.”

The investment proposals were outlined today by Nancy Howell Agee, VBHEC’s vice chair and president and CEO of Carilion Clinic, and Clifford B. Fleet, VBHEC board member and president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  The proposals include:

  • $300 million for talent development, including funding to increase degrees and credentials in fields where Virginia is experiencing workforce shortages, incentives for business-education collaboration on industry-specific pathways from learning to earning, and funding to scale up internships and other work-based learning opportunities statewide as a standard part of the college curriculum.
  • $580 million for affordable access, including $225 million for financial aid and other forms of student financial assistance, $280 million to fund operating needs and strategic initiatives while relieving upward pressures on tuition, and $75 million to support equity, access, and completion initiatives and to reduce reliance on student fees.

Agee and Fleet said their group would work with elected officials and educational partners to develop detailed budget provisions, including specific and measurable goals for each investment and funding tied to performance.  Among the outcomes to be tracked are progress in reducing workforce shortages and reversing the talent loss to other states, increasing the number of student internships with Virginia employers, reducing student loan debt, and increasing the number of first-generation and other under-represented students gaining degrees and credentials and entering the Virginia workforce.

George Martin, VBHEC secretary and a partner at McGuireWoods LLP, said, “What a great liberal arts education does is help prepare you to live a fulfilling and productive life as a contributing member of a flourishing community.  And that’s really what our proposals for affordable talent pathways are all about:  creating a Commonwealth of Opportunity in which we give everyone the chance to go as far as their aspirations and abilities take them.”

Following the presentation, President Makola Abdullah (VSU), chair of the Council of Presidents, and Jared Calfee, executive director of the Virginia 21 student organization, expressed support for the Growth4VA proposals on behalf of their organizations.

Today’s investment proposals by Growth4VA followed the September release of the group’s detailed policy recommendations supporting its four strategic goals – Talent, Affordability, Innovation, and Opportunity – and polling data showing the large majorities of Virginians support major investments in Virginia’s top-ranked higher education system.

To learn more about Growth4VA click here.


Growth4VA is a campaign of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council