Bacon Bits: Higher Ed Updates

Image credit: Virginia Tech

Billion dollar baby. You know Virginia Tech has made the big time when its projects hit the $1 billion mark. That’s how much Tech’s innovation campus in Alexandria, which is tied to Amazon’s HQ project, will ultimately cost. The first phase, a 300,000-square-foot academic building, will cost a mind-bending $275 million, reports the Washington Business Journal. (If it’s any consolation, that figure does include the cost of furniture.) Eventually, the campus will total 1 million square feet of space, including incubator space for new startups, offices for industry collaboration, and convening space for alumni events as well as ground-floor retail “knitting the campus into the fabric of Alexandria.”

VCU R&D Hits Record. Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia’s third-ranked research university, raised a record $310 million in sponsored research funding in fiscal year 2019, reports Virginia Business. The number represents a 14.6% increase from the previous year. The top recipient was the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products, which will launch a five-year study predicting outcomes of government regulations of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

Enrollment up at UVa and W&M. Fall 2019 enrollment numbers are coming in for public universities, and the news is good — at least for the top-tier institutions, according to this Forbes magazine tally. Here in the Old Dominion, the University of Virginia reports a first-year class size of 3,920 students, an increase of 80. Despite aggressive tuition increases in recent years, the College of William & Mary reports anticipated enrollment holding steady around 1,540, down only six students from the previous year. So far, falling college enrollments have hit mainly community colleges and small liberal-arts institutions.

— JAB

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6 responses to “Bacon Bits: Higher Ed Updates

  1. “The first phase, a 300,000-square-foot academic building, will cost a mind-bending $275 million, reports the Washington Business Journal.”

    Jim, the Virginia Tech building, which does something important and useful and is cutting edge in all respects, is being built for relative chicken feed, compare to UVA renovation projects. Just compare on a square footage basis what it costs UVA to renovate two small vanity buildings, namely:

    36,000 square foot Rotunda is renovated, and kitchen added to serve primarily as a board room for the Board of Visitors, at cost of $60,000,000 dollars. This is roughly $1, 428 per square to renovate a board room.

    That very same Board of Visitors sitting in its $60 million board room lead by UVA president votes to spend $10 million+ to renovate UVA presidents 2 story house built in 1906 stating, “the renovation of Carr’s Hill includes extensive roof work, modernized mechanical systems, and some historic renovations.” Where the hell is all this money going, to whom, and why? Nobody will say, its a secret.

    Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is spending $275 million on a real estate project that is cutting edge high tech of mind blending importance to the state, and nation. The cost is $916 a foot.

  2. Let me add that $1, 428 per square to renovate a board room, the 36,000 square foot Rotunda, is very conservative stated because it assumes that the members of the Board of Virginia are so important that they need a $6,000 square food underground designer kitchen to prepare and serve them meals while in session. So I used a 42,000 square foot Rotunda as a legitimate base building figure. Otherwise the legitimate square footage Rotunda renovation cost would be $1,666 per legitimate square footage cost.

    Also, I strongly suspect UVA’s statement that “the renovation of Carr’s Hill includes extensive roof work, modernized mechanical systems, and some historic renovations” does not tell the whole story.

    For example, when the renovation work is complete everybody should check out the UVA president’s new kitchen, and check please all underground passages.

    Meanwhile see: https://news.virginia.edu/content/carrs-hill-renovation-protect-key-historic-structure-future

  3. To give scale – a Walmart Supercenter is about 180,000 square feet.

    If you made it two stories it would be 360,000 square feet.

    What’s interesting is that DJ has said that UVA and VaTech are in the wrong location geographic wise !!!

    And you do have GMU and the University of Maryland in Washington MSA but look at what is happening….

    One might wonder if Amazon had a preference and this was it… or that Northam and company offered it as an incentive…

    I’m sure there must be some downsides but I sure don’t see them!

  4. so those outrageous tuition prices haven’t hurt the Big Us, eh?

    Community Colleges typically lose enrollment if good economies… counterintuitive but the reality.

    Smaller private colleges have become anachronisms… they simply can’t compete with larger Us that offer wide and deep academic and sports programs…

  5. Luxury sells. Snob appeal sells. You can get more bucks for a Tesla than and used Honda, while both get you from A to B nicely. Remember the good ‘ol days when the idea was to simply educate young men and women without burdening them with a lifetime of debt…..The tail surely wags the dog now. This massive flow of capital into tax-exempt entities is telling us something…

  6. The opening of the VT campus in Alexandria was the most forward thinking idea from any governmental entity in Virginia for the last 50 years. I’m not sure who thought it up but it is brilliant.

    Virginia’s top tier universities are absolutely, totally and completely in the wrong places. Economic growth in Virginia happens in the urban areas and high density suburban areas. Virginia’s top rated universities are in bucolic backwaters. Beautiful places but not economic engines. Well run states ensure that their best universities catalyze economic growth in their urban areas. Sometimes they are located nearby through coincidence (U Texas at Austin). Some use multi-campus approaches to get to the cities. Some differentially fund STEM programs on the campuses near cities (University of Maryland, College Park). Virginia has paid lip service to some of these trends but, until the VT in Alexandria announcement, has made little progress. Let’s be honest – the plantation class elite likes the idea of an academical village far from the hustle bustle of a large city. It made sense in the good old day (1950s) … why not now?

    Thank goodness that a private company held a bizarre contest and Virginia won. Left to their own devices the boys and girls in the General Assembly would have done nothing.

    It is useful to remember the history of Silicon Valley going back to the 1950s (when it was born as a technology hot spot). Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory was started in 1956. William Shockley couldn’t convince his former Bell Labs colleagues to move from the beauty of New Jersey to California. So he built the company by hiring engineering graduates. These engineers were not only smart but ambitious. Eight of them left Shockley and built Fairchild Semiconductor. Fairchild’s engineers went on to form Intel. And so on. And so on.

    Having Virginia Tech in Alexandria is akin to having Stanford in Palo Alto. The university catalyzes the technology ecosystem and the technology ecosystem catalyzes the university. The incubators will be great initial homes for the companies started by the inevitable Amazon employee spin-offs.

    But why Virginia Tech instead of the University of Virginia ….

    How many University of Virginia graduates does it take to change a lightbulb?
    Four. One to change the bulb and three to talk about how great the old bulb was.

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