I am a product of Virginia’s first-class public colleges. My mother was the first in nine generations of Virginians in her family to attend college – Longwood University and get a master’s degree at the University of Virginia. My father attended the affordable University of Virginia School of Law.
I attended James Madison University during the recession in the early 1990’s and the University of Virginia School of Law school shortly afterwards. While at JMU, the state imposed huge budget cuts resulting in a three-year hiring freeze, salary freeze, fewer programs and skyrocketing tuition – even mid-year tuition increases. While in law school, Virginia took all state money out of my law school. Since I left UVA Law, tuition has more than tripled from $8,500 per year to $26,000 for in-state students.
Each time revenues decline, the state legislature treats our colleges like a cash machine by removing funds and asking middle-class families who depend on state-supported higher education to pay more in the middle of recessions and stock market crashes. In response to these cuts, our colleges have been forced to rely more on out-of-state students who pay higher tuition. Some have proposed that we cap out-of-state student enrollment instead of properly funding our responsibilities. I reject this as a short-term gimmick that does not resolve the fundamental long-term problem - funding.
The problem is our state legislature, the General Assembly, not the colleges. We are currently experiencing a wave of children from the Baby Boom generation. The stress on our colleges results from a failure to plan and the legislature refusing to meet its obligations, not from college administrators. The legislature has also spent much its energy regarding higher education focused on divisive social issues such as contraceptive bans and prohibiting stem cell research instead of working to facilitate research and development on our campuses and providing adequate funding.
Virginia must invest in its first-class colleges, expand existing schools and study whether new colleges are warranted by demand and limited capacity. I will fight for our state’s colleges and universities because our society is strengthened and enriched by educated people. Our children deserve the same opportunities that my parents and I enjoyed.
I will –