- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2002

RICHMOND Gov.-elect Mark R. Warner wants the state's public colleges and universities to be more efficient, even if that means closing some of those schools' extended campuses in Northern Virginia.
Too many public schools are duplicating their efforts, Mr. Warner said in a recent interview with The Washington Times. "I am an advocate for higher education, but I think we are going to have to find ways [to improve efficiency]," he said.
"Take for example Northern Virginia. We have George Mason [University], which is doing a great job, but we also have UVA [University of Virginia], Virginia Tech. Now VCU [Virginia Commonwealth University] is coming up with the medical school even ODU [Old Dominion University] has a presence," he said.
"In times that are good, perhaps you can have six different universities all chopping up the Northern Virginia pie. But you know that may not be an approach we can continue to afford."
Virginia faces a shortfall of up to $1.3 billion for the remainder of the 2001-2002 budget, which ends June 30. That shortfall could grow to as much as $6 billion by 2006, Mr. Warner has said.
The looming financial crisis may mean cuts in higher education, state employee layoffs and the elimination of some tax credits and deductions.
"I am not scaling back. I am just saying that not every university can be all things to all people," Mr. Warner, a Democrat, told The Times. "I think there might be better ways we can get better efficiency."
George Mason University is considered Northern Virginia's flagship state school, but many of the state's other major universities have established facilities and extended campuses in the region, offering, in many cases, classes that are identical to the curriculum offered at George Mason.
With the economy booming in the late 1990s, new graduate and learning centers were built in Northern Virginia for Norfolk-based Old Dominion University, Blacksburg's Virginia Tech and Charlottesville's University of Virginia.
Virginia Commonwealth University President Eugene P. Trani said schools that have extensions in Northern Virginia should "justify themselves" and not just "expand for the sake of expansion."
VCU plans to have a medical school at Fairfax Inova Hospital by 2005, but Mr. Trani said VCU's venture into Northern Virginia is not an expansion of a medical school. Students from VCU's Richmond-based medical school would go north for their third and fourth years in the hopes the future doctors would stay and practice medicine in the area.
College and state officials defended the need for a presence in Northern Virginia.
Old Dominion President Roseann Runte said the reason her school is in the Washington suburb of Annandale is "because there is a need."
The growth is a result of the free market, she said. Universities are stepping in to provide classes because the local population wants more educational opportunities.
If there are redundancies, they should be corrected, she said. But she said she does not see much duplication in class offerings.

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