- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

RICHMOND (AP) — To ease the growing burden on Virginia’s four-year colleges and universities, the chancellor of the Virginia Community College System is proposing incentives to send more high school graduates to two-year colleges.

Under the proposal circulated to legislators, community college graduates with a grade-point average of “B” or better would pay the community college tuition rate at the four-year public institutions to which they transfer.

In addition, the four-year institution would receive $1,000 per transfer student.

Glenn DuBois, the Community College System chancellor, has estimated that the program would cost the state about $4 million annually.

Mr. DuBois estimates savings to the state would come from the approximately $4,500 the state will save for every full-time Virginia student who begins his or her education at a community college.

“The lowest cost to a baccalaureate degree is the community college on-ramp,” Mr. DuBois told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “It’s the lowest cost for Virginia families. It’s the lowest cost for the state.”

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has already sounded the alarm about the problems ahead. In 2003, it raised the college-enrollment forecast for this decade by 56 percent and said that as many as 6,300 students would be shut out of the state’s four-year colleges by 2010, unless the state took some action.

Mr. DuBois, who floated the idea before, said with the prospect of fewer Virginia seniors being accepted to a public institution, legislators may be more receptive to the proposal.

“Virginia has almost reached a point where young people who graduate from high school with a ‘B’ average will find it difficult to enroll in a Virginia public four-year college or university,” Mr. DuBois said in a position paper, “The New Pathway to the Baccalaureate.”

“We’re drifting more and more toward a crisis of access,” said Mr. DuBois.

A joint Senate and House committee on public funding for higher education in Virginia is attempting to come up with a plan that the 2006 General Assembly can consider.

Mr. DuBois has been promoting a proposal that would make community colleges a key player in reducing the cost to both families and the state of accessing a baccalaureate degree. He said it also would ease the pressure on four-year colleges to admit more students, especially in the freshman and sophomore years, which tend to be every college’s largest classes.

One aspect of the plan would be to guarantee four-year college placement to qualified community college graduates, based on an agreed upon curriculum and grade-point average.

The state’s new higher-education restructuring act, which granted higher levels of autonomy to Virginia colleges, includes a provision that four-year institutions must provide additional opportunities for community college graduates who want to transfer.

In October, Virginia Tech signed an agreement to guarantee admission into its College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for any community college student who had earned an associate’s degree and who carried at least a 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) GPA and had a minimum core of specified courses.

“The commitment by Virginia Tech provides a model for all colleges to follow, and they’re following it,” Mr. DuBois said.

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