Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission Addresses Affordability

Posted: May 11, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The challenge of compiling a series of recommendations for making Virginia’s colleges and universities more affordable occupied much of the year and a half that the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education met.

Between 1995 and 2000, the commission reports, higher education appropriations from the state’s general fund grew 54 percent, “a rate well in excess of the overall general fund growth rate of 48 percent during the same period.” To ensure continued progress, state policymakers and institutional leaders need to give ongoing attention to the rapid increase in the cost of higher education, the report says.

The commission produced 24 recommendations to address the issue of affordability. Following is a representative sampling:

  • The governor and General Assembly should provide resources to maintain the ceiling on tuition and mandatory educational and general fees until the cost of a public college education in Virginia has recovered from the recession-related tuition increases of the early 1990s and is again competitive nationally.

  • The governor and General Assembly should adopt the calculation of “true need” recommended by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) as the basis for the commonwealth’s higher education financial aid policy.

  • Funding decisions should be made in the context of multi-year institutional performance agreements that combine adequate and reliable financial resources and managerial flexibility with institution-specific performance standards and accountability.

  • Funding decisions should continue to reflect the commonwealth’s commitment to forward-looking and cost-effective investments in science and technology.

  • Boards of visitors should fulfill their fiduciary obligations to scrutinize institutional expenditures and identify ways to preserve and enhance affordability consistent with the institution’s mission.

The report, which is available on the SCHEV website, was produced by a 39-member committee including President Alan Merten and Sidney Dewberry, a member of George Mason’s Board of Visitors, as well as representatives of many of the commonwealth’s other colleges and universities, members of the General Assembly, and business leaders.

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