College affordability in Virginia is closely linked to state investment. To reduce tuition pressures, we recommend a general fund appropriation increase totaling $88 million for 2019-20. Eighty-three ($83) million of this restores the reduction in 2017-18 state support for public colleges and universities that was appropriated by the General Assembly but subsequently deleted to address a state revenue shortfall. Whether provided as tuition moderation incentive funding, student financial aid, or new funding for internships or alternative pathways to degrees, this investment in college affordability will pay dividends for Virginia students and the Virginia economy. Similarly, increasing state support for TAG grants by $5 million will prevent a decrease in the grant amount for Virginians attending our private college and universities and provide a small ($50) increase to the grant to keep college affordable for students and families. If combined with the creation of a higher education reserve fund, these investments can help make college costs more predictable and affordable for families and avoid future tuition spikes resulting from economic downturns.
2019 SESSION RECOMMENDATIONS
We recommend several related strategies to tie these investments to improvements in college affordability for Virginians:
- TUITION MODERATION INCENTIVE FUNDING: Provide increased operating support for Virginia’s higher education institutions in the form of tuition moderation incentives. Institutions will receive increased operating support if they agree to limit/avoid tuition increases and thereby improve affordability for Virginia students and families.
- FINANCIAL AID AND TUITION ASSISTANCE GRANTS (TAG): Increase financial aid funding for Virginia students at public higher education institutions and TAG grant funding for Virginia students at non-profit private colleges and universities in order to enhance social mobility, relieve the middle-class tuition squeeze, and reduce student loan debt.
- INTERNSHIPS AND AFFORDABLE PATHWAYS: Promote affordable pathways to college, and from college to Virginia-based employment, through significantly expanded internship and work-study opportunities, and through incentives for more alternative degree pathways, including community college transfer and online programs.
- HIGHER EDUCATION RESERVE FUND: Use non-recurring state revenues to provide initial funding for a higher education reserve fund, and establish a mechanism for annual state investments in the fund during periods of economic and revenue growth.