Virginia Business Higher Education Council Launches Campaign to Promote Internships for Virginia Students: From “Learning to Earning”

VBHEC President Kirk Cox Unveils New Economic Study: Higher Ed Contributes $52 Billion Annually to Gross State Product; Responsible for 188,000 Jobs

Polling: 83 percent of Virginians Agree: “Virginia’s universities, colleges, and community colleges are a valuable public asset of the Commonwealth of Virginia, are well run, and are a sound place to invest public dollars.”

HARRISONBURG – In remarks delivered yesterday at a joint meeting of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and the Council of Presidents (COP) at James Madison University, Kirk Cox, president of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC), unveiled new economic impact and polling data regarding higher education in the Commonwealth and announced a new statewide campaign to promote additional funding and support for internships and “affordable talent pathways” for Virginia students in the years ahead. The full remarks can be read here (

During his speech to leaders of Virginia’s higher education system, which has earned top rankings nationally for graduation rates and return on investment, Cox, former Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, noted, “It’s time to invest in Virginia’s talent. There simply is no better investment our state can make. The latest study shows our higher education investment more than pays for itself, with every $1 invested by the state producing more than $25 in economic growth and returning nearly $2 back to the state treasury. Virginians in both parties are proud of our top-ranked higher ed system and see it as “well run” and “a sound place to invest.” Our polling shows they also believe talent is what sets Virginia apart from our competitors when it comes to economic development. Virginians express especially strong support for our initiative to provide all students paid internship opportunities and pathways to full-time jobs in Virginia, so they are more work-ready and stay in Virginia after graduation. Through VBHEC’s “Growth4VA” campaign this fall and winter, our coalition of business, education, and community leaders and thousands of grassroots Virginians will be spreading this word:  When it comes to investing in Virginia’s talent, the time is now!”

The campaign to build support for greater investments in internships and talent pathways will feature public events and roundtables statewide in the weeks ahead, with the first roundtable taking place this morning in Harrisonburg.  The roundtables will bring together students, employers, college officials, and other community leaders.

In addition to working with the higher education organizations and leaders addressed by Cox today, VBHEC partners with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations to promote employer participation in internships and talent pathways. This collaboration, through the Virginia Talent and Opportunity Partnership (, is working to bring students and employers together for work-based learning opportunities all across Virginia.

Political leaders from both sides of the aisle have strongly endorsed efforts to expand paid internships and affordable talent pathways in the Commonwealth. In the official video ( promoting the campaign, Governor Glenn Youngkin said, “The race for talent is on. I’m so encouraged by the work that the VBHEC and their partners are doing to give every Virginian the opportunity to excel. An impactful internship can be the first step in a long-lasting career and a critical opportunity for students to learn outside the classroom.”

State Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) highlighted the role internships play in talent retention, noting that the value of “internship opportunities is to get students to understand that you don’t have to leave the … Commonwealth to actually find a good job opportunity to stay and live and thrive.”

Delegate Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) added, “If we can put money in there and make it more affordable, people get better paying jobs, they have a better quality of life, and it filters right on down to your kids and your grandchildren. And it’ll give us a competitive advantage over these other states.”

The new economic impact data comes from a study by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at UVa. The study found:

  • Virginia’s public colleges, universities, and community colleges have a combined economic footprint that contributes $52 billion annually to our Gross State Product.
  • The system accounts for more than 188,000 Virginia jobs.
  • It returns approximately $3.8 billion in revenue to the state treasury.
  • For every one dollar spent on our public higher education system, the result is more than $25 of Virginia gross domestic product and nearly $2 back to the state treasury.

The full study can be found here (

The polling was conducted this March by a bipartisan team of pollsters: Public Opinion Strategies and Frederick Polls. Among the findings:

  • 83% of Virginians agree: “Virginia’s universities, colleges, and community colleges are a valuable public asset of the Commonwealth of Virginia, are well run, and are a sound place to invest public dollars.” (90% of Democrats and nearly 80% of Republicans agree).
  • More than 90% of Virginians in both parties say: “The most important investment our state can make is to ensure that every Virginia resident is able to achieve the highest level of education that suits their aspirations and abilities, whether that is a skilled trade certificate, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, or graduate or professional degree.”
  • Virginians also believe talent is what sets Virginia apart from our competitors. The main reason Virginia remains in the top two states for business, according to CNBC, is the Commonwealth is the top state for education.  The poll found more than 90% of Virginia voters said it’s important to invest so that we maintain that competitive advantage.

Poll results can be found here (

In addition to his remarks, as noted above, Cox also showed a new video in which students, employers, and bipartisan legislative and executive branch officials in Virginia discuss the benefits of paid internships and affordable talent pathways. That video can be viewed here (

Details regarding upcoming campaign events will be released in the weeks ahead.


About the Virginia Business Higher Education Council:

The Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) was founded in 1994 by Virginia business leaders on the principle that the prosperity of Virginia and the well-being of its citizens is fundamentally tied to access to a strong system of public colleges and universities.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan partnership between Virginia’s business community and higher education leadership, VBHEC’s mission is to enhance the performance of Virginia’s public colleges, universities, and community colleges and their funding by state government so they can produce the greatest possible positive impact on Virginia’s economy.

About Growth4VA:

Growth4VA is founded by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council and supported by all 16 public colleges and universities in Virginia, the Virginia Community College System, and Virginia’s non-profit private institutions. We are promoting investment and innovation throughout the Virginia higher education system.


Growth4VA is a campaign of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council