A Plan to Build the Best Educated Workforce by 2030

A multi ethnic group of graduates in graduation gownsby James A. Bacon

Virginia has one of the better educated workforces among the 50 states. The Old Dominion ranked 4th nationally in 2009 by the percentage of population 25 years or older with an advanced degree, and 6th nationally for the percentage with a Bachelor’s degree. Those statistics reflect the fact that the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., have among the highest levels of educational attainment anywhere in the country. Go outside of Northern Virginia, and it’s a different picture. Ranked by the percentage of workers who have graduated from high school, Virginia tumbled to 30th.

What would it take to set the standard for the United States — to build the best educated workforce in the entire country?

The State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) has been asking that question. Indeed SCHEV has developed a statewide strategic plan with four broad goals to achieve that objective by 2030. This plan has no money behind it at present but it provides a road map for how to become No. 1 in educational attainment should the political and cultural will exist to get there.

Virginia’s public universities will develop their own six-year plans that align with the SCHEV plan, says Peter Blake, SCHEV’s executive director, but they can’t get there by themselves.  At some point, he says, the General Assembly will have to increase its public support to make it a reality. Says he: “It’s the commonwealth’s plan.”

The statewide strategic plan has four broad goals:

Provide affordable access for all. Strategies include expanding outreach to traditionally underserved populations; improving readiness of all students; cultivating affordable post-secondary pathways; and align state appropriation financial aid and tuition and fees so students have access regardless of their ability to pay.

Optimize student success. The plan calls for strengthening curricular options to ensure graduates have competencies necessary for employment and civic engagement; helping students to complete their degrees; and engaging adults and veterans in certificate and degree-completion programs and lifelong learning.

Drive change through innovation and investment. Blake describes these goals as the “creative disruption” part of the plan, in which colleges and universities rigorously evaluate what they’re doing on an ongoing basis. Strategies include cultivating innovations that enrich quality, promote collaboration and improve efficiency; fostering faculty excellence, scholarship and diversity; and enhancing higher ed leadership, governance and accountability.

Advancing economic and cultural prosperity. Strategies include building a future-ready workforce in all regions of the state; catalyzing entrepreneurship and business incubation; promoting research and development; and expanding public service to the community.

The framework (goals and strategies) is in place, says Blake. The next step is to adopt metrics by which to measure progress toward those goals. Draft metrics include the following targets:

  • 1.5 million total undergraduate awards
  • Closing the graduation gap between under-represented populations (URPs) and other populations
  • Address the financial needs of 50% of low- and middle-income students
  • 80% of graduates earn sustainable wages within three years of graduation
  • Double R&D expenditures to $2.84 million

Those are the biggies, says Blake, although SCHEV proposes 12 more “related indicators” such as persistence (the percentage of enrollees who graduate within six years), default rates on student loans, state funding, and completions of high-demand degrees.

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20 responses to “A Plan to Build the Best Educated Workforce by 2030”

  1. This is kind of funny after all the crying over folks of significant means trying to “afford” a degree at UVA … and depending on government subsidies to do it.

    The key to ROVA is pretty simple IMHO:

    1. – spend the money needed to get K-3 disadvantaged kids up on grade level for reading, writing, and math – so they can read-to-learn in K4-12.

    2. – stop engaging in excuses about lazy parents, bad genes, bad teachers and other mindless blame-assigning offal…

    3. – promise each kid who gets A’s and B’s the same level of financial support for post k12, that we give to higher income folks trying to pay for UVA.

    4. – provide to each kid not bound for a 4year institution – Community College TRAINING that will qualify them for a job… that’s a guaranteed
    training.. they are entitled to after K-12 graduation.

    1. ‘spend the money needed to get K-3 disadvantaged kids up on grade level for reading, writing, and math – so they can read-to-learn in K4-12.’

      Translation: Mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money. Does the VEA subsidize your commenting?

      Question: How has inflation-adjusted spending per pupil changed over the last 25 years for RoVA K – 12 public schools.

      “stop engaging in excuses about lazy parents, bad genes, bad teachers and other mindless blame-assigning offal…”

      Translation: No accountability for results for anybody. The escalating spending per pupil hasn’t worked so far so let’s just keep doing the same things with the same people. If that doesn’t work – rinse and repeat.

      “promise each kid who gets A’s and B’s the same level of financial support for post k12, that we give to higher income folks trying to pay for UVA.”

      Translation: Not applicable. Jibberish. “each kid who gets A’s and B’s” – even the children of Albemerle County billionaires? “financial support … we give to higher income kids” – is this the state support for public university education? Doesn’t the state provide support for all public colleges and universities? Are you talking about trade schools?

      “provide to each kid not bound for a 4year institution – Community College TRAINING that will qualify them for a job… that’s a guaranteed
      training.. they are entitled to after K-12 graduation.”

      Translation: Not applicable. Jibberish. If one of my kids doesn’t go to college they can get free training? How very generous of you. Don’t you get community college training at a community college?

      Questions: Why aren’t the high schools providing the training required to get a job? Should high schools extend the curriculum to 5 years for students who choose not to go on to college?

      1. re: translations…

        bogus to the bone..

        full accountability but on the things that do matter. Bad teachers are not causing the majority of the issues in RoVa K-12.

        is the money going up? let me ask you – do entitlements go up if you graduate higher and higher numbers of kids with crippled educations?

        I support non-public schools, competition – as long as they have to meet the same accountability standards.

        there is nothing I’d like better than to see Koch or ALEC set up some pilot programs schools in Virginia and demonstrate they can do better with less money.

        re: “free training”.

        not what I said. I said equivalent financial assistance that we see for UVA kids which is thousands of dollars for most kids.

        give the kids going to Community COllege – … equity.

        re: the high schools

        two reasons:

        1 – they have never taken full responsibility for post K-12 – for 4 year or 2 year but most employers will tell you that 21st century jobs require MORE than a 20th century HS education.

        2 – Many schools will choose to fund AP and IB over vocational ed if choices have to be made. Our schools are configured to get the college-bound prepared first and whatever else is left over for vocational.

        this is about – what is the most effective use of education dollars – for all students, all jobs… and to generate more taxpayers and less entitlement takers.

        you should be on board with that.

        1. So, the state doesn’t provide support to community colleges? Really?

          “McAuliffe’s website says state funding per community college student fell from $4,418 in 2008 to $2,510 in 2012 — a $1,908 drop.”


          As for why it dropped – well that’s on your beloved Imperial Clown Show in Richmond with their iron clad grip on Dillon’s Rule.

      2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        Fairfax County, spending federal, state and mostly its own money, adds additional resources to kids receiving free or reduced priced lunches such that their average class size is generally below 20. Meanwhile, there are many classes in other parts of the county with 30 or more students. In addition, Fairfax County spends millions on ESOL resources for kids. Fairfax County offers several special in-school academies, including ones that offer vocational courses, which are available to all students.

        So what else should Fairfax County taxpayers fund?

  2. Darrell Avatar

    About the only thing that keeps Va. from being W.Va. is NORVA. Most of those college grads up North aren’t even from Va. The SCHEV plan is based on an illusion.

    Then there is that whole idea of more help for the disadvantaged. You know who are the real disadvantaged? The former middle class who are now lower class without the disadvantaged’s advantages. Virginia’s answer to them is yet another tuition increase “to help pay for the disadvantaged”. Thanks for the help, jerks.

  3. Darrell – I’ve said many times that our K-12 schools, and our State and Fed policies focus on 4 yr institutions and pretty much ignore the kids not headed to 4yr or might but can’t even come close in income.

    If Virginia really wants to attract employers – they need to invest in their own citizens and especially so those that are capable of learning but lack the resources – both in K-12 and post K-12.

    a govt-guaranteed loan at 5% instead of what the market would charge – is a subsidy of thousands of dollars – $5,000 – $30,000 that we say is fine for
    those of some means but that same dollar amount for K-12 kids or Community College is said to be a subsidy to those who do not deserve it.

    I’m NOT arguing for MORE subsidies. I’m saying that we already subsidize the hell out of education – for the WRONG priorities.

    we should be using that money to create an employable workforce… not so Johnny can become a lawyer like his Dad or whatever.

    we fail three times:

    1 – we fail to create an educate workforce that attracts employers
    2. -we fail to actually produce real economic development
    3. – we end up with the kids on the same entitlement track as their parents

    and it’s totally odd that when we advocate for the uneducated, we are called liberals but when we advocate for 100K college loans for the”educated”, it’s a worthwhile investment.

    we are screwed up… we DO NEED the 4yr high performers – no question – but we cannot succeed if that is our only priority.

    Virginia without NoVa is West Va – and we actually could do something about it if we wanted to.

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    First, I think if you took most states they would have one or two major metropolitan areas that provided the high end of their statewide statistics. Yes, Northern Virginia has the higher incomes and higher educational achievement, but wouldn’t Boston also drive up the stats for Massachusetts and NYC the results for the State of New York? A whole lot of people living the good life (ugh) in NOVA grew up elsewhere in VA and went to school downstate. In fact, until George Mason got so big, they had little choice but to go downstate.

    It’s a COMMONwealth, not series of regional fiefdoms, even though it is politically expedient to play that game.

    Having worked on the statewide plan I can tell you the metrics are still a work in progress and they won’t mean much unless they are somewhat aggressive. I’ll give you an example. Increasing the R&D by 100 percent over that many years will mean more if the dollars are adjusted for inflation. And as mentioned by me earlier, Virginia won’t get there unless the GA steps up with some additional seed money, either through the general fund or bonds. The long term payoff would be huge but politicians and votes (understandably) want immediate ROI.

    The affordable access argument in the plan is the one that drives me. I see the recent move by UVA and the earlier move by William and Mary as going in the wrong direction. But I see the drive to more transfer programs between the community colleges and the four years, with appropriate financial aid, as a huge step in the right direction.

    Larry, you’ll be pleased to know that the budget just signed by the Governor includes first-time funding for financial aid at the community colleges for non-degree programs — for industry certificates and apprenticeship type programs. Before this, only degree candidates got financial aid. Much needs to be worked out but this is a huge development, in my mind.

    Working on the plan I kept running into the old gal Rosy Scenario. There is no way Virginia will become the best educated state, or even a better educated state, if people do not wake up and realize 1) it will cost real money because the current model is unsustainable, 2) the less efficient schools need to get their productivity up, 3) far more students from minority households need to go to college and succeed because the overall pool of college-bound is shrinking fast and that’s where the pool is going to be and 4) more emphasis needs to be placed (Yes, Larry) on career focused programs that do not require a four year degree. We provide a higher state subsidy to a student at a private school than we do to a student at a state community college. I’ve railed against that for four years — into a howling void of indifference.

    The UVA and W&M model of semi-private, high tuition, high out-of-state, and the use of tuition transfer payments for financial aid — hey, I get the attraction. With their reputations it may work (mainly because they have these paid-for capital plants). But I don’t like it.

    1. Steve – it sounds like we’re in the same church if not on the same exact pew.

      Some of this – maybe a lot of it – comes down to what a parent wants for their children verses what is best for all kids and in turn -ultimately to the higher paid kids-grown-up – that are paying for entitlements for those kids who never got enough vocational education to get a job – not need entitlements, become a taxpayer.

      I understand why parents want the best – the most they can get from the govt -for their kids. What boggles me is when they become partisan about incentives for those not bound for a UVA type education.

      Jim spends a significant number of his posts talking about what Virginia needs to do to spur economic development – but seemingly not so much about the quality of our native workforce – especially in RoVa.

      I think workforce education is more important than UVA. I’d rather see UVA get cut and tuition rise there rather than Community Colleges.

      and don’t get me wrong – Community Colleges can waste money hand over fist also.. we have to insure they are performing according to the need but that job is easier than trying to get the 4-year guys to change course.

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        A business investor who didn’t have to play politics would pour the resources into the community colleges and into the transfer grant programs. The return there is substantially higher than with the four-years. Many of them also have less than stellar on-time graduation rates, so there is huge opportunity for improvement there. But the focus on career and technical education should begin way back in middle school. I would be absolutely fine with an effort to hold the BA and BS degree production flat and double the AA and AS degrees. I’m fascinated by what Tennessee is doing.

        1. “I’m fascinated by what Tennessee is doing.” Hear, hear!

          1. On education AND the MedicAid expansion

    2. Oh my goodness … the utterly lame Commonwealth argument. The term commonwealth was adopted during the American Revolution by a few states to indicate that they were governed by the people and no longer colonies. It was a marketing gimmick. It never implied anything about the state’s economic philosophy or representative structure. Today, it continues to have no meaning whatsoever.

      The Commonwealth of Virginia is a politically mismanaged disaster with the worst, least effective state government in the United States.

      Has anybody on this board ever wondered why the state has to continually reduce support for higher education? Why do we just take that as a given? Have your taxes gone down? Mine sure as hell have not.

      The money is being reduced because we have the worst state legislature in America. A few years ago one of the few non-clowns in our state legislature proposed legislation to cap industry-specific and company-specific tax breaks at 5 years. Those tax breaks could be renewed by vote of the General Assembly but there would have to be a vote. How hard a concept is that for a state that continually reduces support for higher education?

      Well, needless to say, Petersen’s sensible bill was voted down by a bipartisan coalition of asshats in the General Assembly.

      This has nothing to do with upper class, middle class and lower class. It has everything to do with the thieving class in the Commonwealth of Virginia (a wholly owned subsidiary of Dominion Resources).

      There would be a whole lot more money to spend if industry-specific and company-specific tax breaks didn’t last forever. Let that word roll around in your mind a bit – forever.


      1. And how much do tax breaks keep out of the state’s coffers?

        “A recent Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission report detailed how tax breaks cost Virginia taxpayers at least $12.5 billion annually, roughly double what the Commonwealth spends on direct aid to public education.”

        If you want to see the problem in Virginia stare at Richmond.


  5. SO, what about the kids who come from backgrounds that enforce the worthlessness of education. No amount of government funding changes that equation. This is why so many more people are sacrificing to send children to private school, where most parents realize the value of education and support the institution in their mission to develop future leaders. Less than a racial issue, it becomes a socio-economic issue, with less and less emphasis on working hard to achieve a reward. Of course, good things happen in the urban public schools, too, but many children have to choose between what their family and friends are OK with and what their teachers are telling them are future possibilities (if they work really hard). I think the plan needs to include an emphasis on families, particularly re-engaging parents in the responsible roles that they should be taking up- working to provide and modeling positive life-skills/habits. Not suggesting we throw all our efforts away, but wondering why this always gets glossed over and school leaders really act like efforts in the school and head-start will yield results.

    1. you can’t save them all.. some are going to fail no matter what just as some who go to college will flunk out.

      but we do not even do what other OECD countries including Germany do which is have a training path for non-4yr education .

      some kids do not have good families but with a good learning environment they can and will still learn…and grow up employed.

      here’s your problem. Mom and Dad have crappy educations themselves (how did that happen) and grew up not having a culture of education.

      what do you do?

      make excuses.. walk away – and continue the cycle of poverty and ignorance- and your kids inherit the continuing entitlement burden?

      at some point in your past – there were ancestors without formal educations and did your ancestors fix it themselves or did public education fix it?

    2. re: no amount of govt funding

      that’s true but we have schools that are doing crappy jobs for the whole school and it’s kind of hard writing off all the kids just because they live in a demographically poor neighborhood and have a high percentage of economically disadvantaged.

      we have other schools in Virginia that also have poor neighborhood schools but they do far better – and it has as much or more to do with how the school operates that the entire neighborhood population being “worthless” with regard to the need for education.

      Kids if taught correctly -and according to their deficits will learn – no matter how ignorant their parents are. Kids with better parents are easier and cheaper to teach -yes. But the poor kids do learn – and many schools prove it when they use Head start and Title 1 the way they are intended to be used – and produce proven results.

      this boils down to whether we teach those kids with crappy parents or make excuses why we can’t.

      Fairfax County has significant numbers of kids whose English is a second language – (not just Hispanic – from all over the world) – and you can view
      that as a “deficit” that must be remediated before they can learn – and if you focus it to do that – it works. And it works for other types of deficits…

      we can’t save them all but if we don’t try, the kids that make it are going to end up with higher and higher entitlement burdens..and a world with 3rd world type problems.

      blaming bad parents and bad teachers is an lazy excuse to walk away – but the problem doesn’t go away and, in fact, it comes back right on top of you.. and your own kids. we have no choice but to deal with it.

    3. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

      “…it becomes a socio-economic issue, with less and less emphasis on working hard to achieve a reward.”

      This zombie argument seems to have more staying power and creep than the monsters on The Walking Dead.


      This is fun, too…

      “Less than a racial issue…” and then we transfer over to this nice bit of racial coding “…in the urban public schools…”

      Because I guess there are no lazy, impoverished people in suburban or rural public schools, just those dusky urban ones.

      1. there does seem to be some embedded racial stereotyping at issue in the reasoning at times… stubborn it is… and unfortunate as it thoroughly pollutes the heck out of any substantiative discussion.

        sorta like the reasoning why Medicaid expansion gets turned down – except it’s explicitly for the working poor. They can’t be working that hard since they’re poor, eh?

  6. Government programs, lunches, breakfasts, early and pre-K programs are obviously the way to go and are producing great results. Thankfully, bad parents and poor family structures can be negated by extra involvement of the government, as well. Of course, the data doesn’t reflect this, but it would be racist to suggest otherwise. By the way, my city schools are urban and are majority white; where you live must be different.

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