The Washington Times - December 14, 2011, 07:29PM

Gov. Bob McDonnell on Wednesday leaked part of the two-year budget he will propose next week, announcing a funding package that will include $100 million per year for higher education.

The announcement builds off of Mr. McDonnell’s “Top Jobs” legislation in 2011 that provided the same amount, with the ultimate goal of having 100,000 more Virginians receive degrees over the next 15 years.

SEE RELATED:


“The overall theme here is the state’s got to do more,” he said at a Wednesday news conference. “I think this sets the foundation now for the next 15 years in higher education.”

The 2011 package also included specific policy incentives for universities to create more degrees in the science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) and health care fields, enhance graduation rates, require more year-round use of facilities, and improve financial aid, among other items.

Public colleges and universities have all crafted six-year plans to outline how they intend to go about achieving the goals in the act.

The administration is also directing colleges and universities to set aside 3 percent of their general fund support for education and general operations ($34.7 million) next year and five percent ($57.8 million) the year after that and beyond to repurpose toward the “Top Jobs” goals. That money will be released once schools submit a plan to the Secretary of Education on how they intend to use the money.

Mr. McDonnell also removed a $10 million per year reduction that was to hit state colleges and universities, money intended to reduce ever-escalating tuition rates and fees, which have doubled over the past 10 years.

Mr. McDonnell also included money in the capital budget for maintenance, new building equipment, planning money, and almost $400 million in new initiatives to be crafted with non-general funds.

From the $100 million in new money each year, the following areas are funded:

• $25.5 million per year to provide additional support for public higher education institutions’ base operating costs

• $20.4 million per year as incentive funding in support of public higher education institutions’ efforts to graduate students, especially if those students are STEM-H majors, graduate in less time than normal, and are considered an underrepresented group based on age and income

•$16.2 million per year to account for enrollment growth by public higher education institutions between academic year 2009-10 and academic year 2010-11, representing more than 8,200 more students

• $12.4 million per year to support cancer and high-tech research at our higher education institutions, as well as funding for competitive research grant awards

• $8.2 million per year to support other STEM-H related initiatives at entities that support higher education

• $6.4 million per year to increase financial assistance to students

• $5.8 million per year to increase the Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) award to Virginia students attending private, non-profit higher education institutions from the present $2,650 to $2,750

• $5.1 million per year to support institution specific STEM-H, graduation and retention and economic development initiatives at public higher education institutions consistent with the goals in the Top Jobs legislation