Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has announced his 2016 budget proposal, which includes further investment in higher education throughout the state to the tune of tens of millions of additional dollars.
McAuliffe’s budget proposal would add $50 million in an effort to increase the number of in-state students who receive degrees, as well as $48.2 million for in-state financial aid.
The governor is also making a push for a $100,000 grant that would allow for a study to be completed on the funding of a regional center to investigate sexual violence on campus. McAuliffe said he would like the center to add onto the work of the multi-disciplinary Task Force on Combating Sexual Violence, which would include educators and law enforcement.
“Our biennial budget will reverse a troubling trend in recent years in which state support for our higher education system has failed to keep pace with costs, adding stress to our families who are already facing tough economic challenges,” McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe went on to say his plan would also include $24.6 million for work certification and credentialing programs at community colleges for in-demand industries, adding that these programs are essential to “maximize Virginia’s economic development potential.”
In addition, $8.1 million would be put into an online degree completion initiative aimed at helping adults and nontraditional students earn degrees.
The majority of his time as mayor has been spent on efforts to expand and diversify the economy within the state, focusing on the shortage of skilled workers in several fields, including cybersecurity and engineering. McAuliffe hopes his higher education budget plan will prepare students in the state for the “new Virginia economy.”
“The biennial budget I will introduce this week will make significant investments in Virginia’s higher education system and steer those institutions toward preparing students to lead in the 21st-century economy,” he said.
The governor’s proposal included the hiring of around 2,500 new teachers, re-benchmarking standards, putting funding into drop-out prevention and parent engagement, high school innovation, computer science training for teachers, early childhood grants, salary increases for teachers, and teacher retirement.
Republicans in Virginia, who currently control the Senate and House, have not responded with much enthusiasm to the proposal, which they believe will be dependent on increasing Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, as well as through savings from expansion and a corporate tax cut.
Republican legislative leaders are not supportive of Medicaid expansion. While doing so would offer healthcare to 400,000 uninsured individuals in Virginia, it would also increase dependence on federal spending in the state.
Nonpartisan group Virginia21, who advocates for issues found to be important to young voters, approved of the governor’s proposal, calling it a positive step toward affordable, high-quality education. The group added that they would like to ensure that this “critical funding” makes it into the final budget.
The governor has yet to say whether Medicaid expansion will be included in the budget, writes Laura Vozzella for The Washington Post.
The full budget plan is expected to be unveiled later on with regional public hearings to be held across the state next month.