Report Outlines Economic Benefits of Virginia Higher Ed Spending

A report from the University of Virginia has outlined how spending on higher education financially benefits the state. A study by UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service shows that the state’s economy receives $17 in new economic activity while the state government reaps $1.29 in additional tax revenue for every dollar spent on Virginia’s public university system.

The Virginia Business Higher Educational Council, which commissioned the study, trumpeted the results during an Old Dominion University press conference, using the occasion to also release its 2013 policy paper. The group was formed in 2009 in order to lobby for increases in higher education spending after years of cuts gutted Virginia’s universities, cutting budgets by as much as 50%. Since its formation, the coalition credits itself with successfully stopping the bleeding, pushing through tuition freezes and putting higher education within reach for a larger pool of Virginia families.

Associated Press reports that group leaders were delighted that the study supported their contention that higher education spending makes economic sense for Virginia.

“You tell me, how many other investments we can make in the state that generate a 29 percent return on investment?,” said John ‘Dubby’ Wynne, former CEO of Landmark Communications and chairman of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. “There’s just not that many.”

Among other things, the report also found that public higher education institutions accounted for 131,230 jobs and $28.447 billion in gross domestic product.

Coalition members intend to take their message to the General Assembly as they broaden their original goals, which included making college more affordable for low-and middle-income families. Among the 13 policy items identified this year, are providing state funding for student work-study programs, bolstering job training programs and providing financial incentives to enable colleges to give students the option of purchasing four-year tuition guarantees.

The College of William & Mary is already on board with the plan and has announced that while its incoming students will see a 20% hike in tuition and fees, the price will be guaranteed for four years. Students who don’t fall under the new guaranteed plan will see their bills go up by nearly 2% this year.

While the policy paper outlines the coalition’s priorities, it doesn’t attach any real dollar amounts to each issue. However, according to AP, Virginia lawmakers are at least willing to listen.

House Majority Leader Kirk Cox and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment were both on hand at Thursday’s news conference to lend their support to the coalition. Gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli have also both expressed support for the Grow By Degrees campaign.