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Grow By Degrees coalition releases policy agenda for higher education

The Grow By Degrees coalition unveiled the results of a new statewide economic impact study of higher education and its 2013 "College, Knowledge and Jobs" agenda at a series of statewide joint press conferences with business leaders, legislators and university presidents on Sept. 5.

Joining Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) Chairman Heywood Fralin at the Roanoke press conference were Delegate Kirk Cox, Carilion Clinic President and CEO Nancy Agee, RU President Penelope W. Kyle, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger and Virginia Western Community College President Robert Sandel.

At the press conference, the VBHEC released the results of a new economic impact study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia. According to the study, for every tax dollar the state invests in public higher education, the result is $17.40 in economic activity (GDP) and $1.29 in new state tax revenues. The study concluded that Virginia’s yearly investment in public higher education generates $28.4 billion in economic activity, accounts for 131,200 jobs, and returns $2.1 billion in state tax revenues.

Through a video featuring business and higher education leaders across Virginia, the coalition released its 2013 policy agenda, “College, Knowledge and Jobs.” The coalition is urging elected officials and candidates for office in Virginia to embrace the agenda, which contains recommended initiatives related to job training, university-based research, leadership development, academic and career advising, and incentives for more degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and healthcare. The proposals also include measures to make college costs more affordable and predictable, especially for middle-income students who currently qualify for little financial aid and often incur excessive student loan debt.

"The incredible success of Grow By Degrees would not have been possible without the governor, without the members of the General Assembly and without our business leaders," said President Kyle.

“In response to the Grow By Degrees program, Radford University has increased its in-state undergraduate enrollment within recent years,” said Kyle. From 2010-2012, RU added nearly 650 students, and is expected to have more than 10,000 students next fall. Kyle pointed out that Radford University serves the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia with 94% of RU’s enrollment comprised of in-state students.

President Kyle also cited the coalition’s emphasis on affordable access for higher education and additional state funding, made possible by the support of the General Assembly and Governor McDonnell, for enabling RU to minimize increases in tuition and fees over the last two years, for an average annual increase of 3.7%.  State support also accounted for more than $700,000 in additional student financial assistance for RU students during the same timeframe.  Kyle stated that these factors, combined with the university’s focus on managing student costs, resulted in Radford University being recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the “best value colleges” in the nation in 2013. 

In her closing comments, President Kyle praised Fralin’s support of higher education across the Commonwealth of Virginia and particularly the Fralin family’s support of the institutions of higher education in our region. “He has been a tremendous supporter of higher education in Virginia,” said Kyle. “He has been especially generous to our local institutions of higher education. For that, I want to thank you, Heywood, and your family.”

About Grow By Degrees

In 2009, nearing the end of a decade in which state budget actions cut higher education funding roughly in half on a per-student, constant-dollar basis, VBHEC launched the Grow By Degrees campaign to draw attention to the crucial role that higher education plays in preparing Virginians for top jobs in the 21st century economy and also in research, economic development and job creation throughout Virginia.

Embracing the Grow By Degrees policy agenda during the gubernatorial campaign, Governor Bob McDonnell in 2010 convened a bipartisan commission that crafted a blueprint for awarding 100,000 more college degrees by 2025, backed by sustained state-level reinvestment and reform throughout Virginia’s higher education system.

The result was unanimous passage of landmark higher education legislation in 2011 known as the “Top Jobs Act.”  Accompanying the “Top Jobs” law were new state appropriations providing nearly $400 million to Virginia’s colleges, universities and community colleges during 2011-14—funding that has begun to reverse the previous decade’s deep cuts in per-student state support, enabled colleges and universities to enroll 14,000 additional undergraduate students since 2009, resulted in the lowest public university tuition increases in a decade, and increased the percentage of working-age Virginians with an associate or higher degree from 42 percent to 45 percent.

For more information about the Grow By Degrees initiative, visit www.growbydegrees.org.

To learn more about Radford University, visit www.radford.edu.

Sep 7, 2013
Joe Carpenter
(540) 831-7270
ljcarpenter@radford.edu