Merten Calls upon Commonwealth to Address Higher Education Funding Shortage

Posted: December 2, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Daniel Walsch

In a proposed op-ed piece for The Washington Post, President Alan Merten calls upon state officials to address the funding issue that is currently compromising the growth plans of the public colleges and universities within Virginia.

“The commonwealth is faced with the growing needs of its population and a revenue stream that can’t keep pace,” says Merten. “Finding a solution requires a dispassionate and clear-headed look at all the options.”

This article follows closely on the heels of an open letter that was sent by Gov. Mark Warner before Thanksgiving to all state employees in which he announced his new plan for “tax fairness” that, if approved, “ensures that Virginia will have the revenue it needs to properly fund the state’s commitment to education through the Standards of Quality and to reverse funding declines for higher education.”

Warner’s plan provides an additional $855 million to both public education and to higher education. “Without this additional funding,” Warner wrote, “we will be unable to meet the demands of growing enrollment, and localities will face continuing pressure to raise real estate taxes.”

Virginia faces a $1.2 billion shortfall in its budget for the next two years. Warner’s tax reform plan includes a 22.5 cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax and a one cent increase in the sales tax.

State projections currently predict an additional 61,000 high school graduates will be seeking a college education through 2010. Merten says he is greatly concerned that without any increase in state funding to provide more faculty and classrooms to accommodate these students, “many will be closed out not just of a university or college, but of the opportunity for the better quality of life a higher education provides.

“The future of this state is in jeopardy. All of us, legislators, business leaders, educators, and citizens have a responsibility to demand a serious, thoughtful, and nonpartisan consideration of the governor’s proposals,” says Merten. “Virginia cannot continue its current slide into self interest and mediocrity.”

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