My advice to young people is to always go to the college you want, as long as it’s in Virginia. Regardless of your criteria for choosing an institution to pursue higher education, Virginia colleges and universities can meet your needs. For liberal arts, engineering, science, fine arts, major or minor, there is a nationally ranked school that meets the criteria. While the community college system is organized at the state level, all other institutions are individually planned and managed with their own personalities. A recent visit to my grandson’s college campuses reminded me again of the diversity and strength of our colleges and universities.
Behind the amazing campuses and great program offerings is a story that tells us that we need to move beyond being proud of what we have to make some fundamental changes. A research report titled “Equity Funding and the Future of Higher Education in Virginia” by a think tank in the commonwealth released earlier this month outlines some important reforms.
According to the report, “Virginia higher education remains segregated by income and race. At some of Virginia’s wealthiest public institutions, one in ten students come from low-income families…” The report found, “The sources of inequitable distribution of access to higher education and the disparity in enrollment at Commonwealth colleges and universities are numerous, but inequitable state funding of higher education in Virginia It puts enormous pressure on the power to transform lives, communities and economies.
In the year In 2021, Virginia ranked 38th lowest in the nation for enrollment per full-time equivalent student, making the state the 12th richest in the nation. State funding covers only 48 percent of public higher education spending today, compared to 77 percent in 2001. Education is the 4th highest in the country among general institutions. George Mason University is the second best university in the state for increasing social mobility, but it receives the least tuition per student of the four-year institutions.
The report’s findings are not new to those who follow higher education issues in the region. Earlier this year, the State Council on Higher Education issued a “Virginia Cost and Funding Needs Study Report” with many of the same findings and a conceptual framework for funding higher education that makes it “affordable, equitable, and affordable.” And a change maker. It is important that the findings of these two reports be followed by future legislative sessions. As I’ve said from the beginning, Virginia has an excellent system of higher education, and it’s a better system to make the necessary changes based on that foundation. Depending on how long the fund-raising institution has been around, how many alumni are in the legislature or should be moving forward. Performance standards that demonstrate colleges are affordable, equitable, and transformative should inform future funding decisions.