Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

Northam Proposes Another $145 Million Giveaway

by James A, Bacon

The spending avalanche keeps building. Governor Ralph Northam now is proposing to spend $145 million in the next two-year budget to make tuition-free community college available to “low- and middle-income” students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields.

The Governor’s “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” (G3) program would cover tuition, fees and books.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to get a good education and a good job, no matter who you are or how much money you have,” Northam said in a statement. “This is an investment in equity and our economy — by helping Virginians get the skills they need, we’re building a world-class workforce while ensuring all Virginians can support themselves, their families, and their communities.”

There is so much sloppy thinking in this proposal that it’s hard to know where to begin. But I’ll try…. Continue reading

In Failure, the GOP Has an Opportunity to Reinvent Itself

Todd Gilbert, House Majority Leader and soon-to-be House Minority Leader: GOP must learn to appeal to suburban voters.

by James A. Bacon

So, the Republicans have wrapped up their annual “Advance” — a retreat at the Omni Homestead resort in Bath County. And if reports of the two newspapers that covered the event are to be believed — one from the Washington Post and one from the Roanoke Times — GOP leaders have absolutely no clue how to become competitive statewide.

Attendees do agree that they got shellacked in the November election, and they share a vague sense that they need to increase their appeal in the suburbs. But their only hope at this point resides in the conviction that Democrats will over-reach with Trump Derangement Syndrome in Washington and enact California-style legislation in Richmond. If voters get buyer’s remorse, they might start voting for Republicans again.

But you can’t defeat something with nothing, and there is no indication in either news account that Republicans gave much thought to what they stood for, other than not being insane. Continue reading

Despite Five Years of Programs, Campus “Rapes” Surged at UVa in 2018

by James A. Bacon

Five years ago, Rolling Stone magazine plunged the University of Virginia into turmoil with its infamous article, “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA.” Though totally discredited, the story prompted intensive soul-searching by a campus administration primed to believe in the existence of a “rape culture” at the university. As documented in the latest edition of Cville magazine, the university dedicated considerable resources to address the problem of sexual assault.

The university adopted a Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence, instituted outreach and training programs, developed a system for reporting and tracking sexual assaults, hired a full-time Title IX coordinator, and beefed up its Equal opportunity and Civil Rights office staff. Counseling & Psychological Services nearly doubled its staff. The Women’s Center received more funding, hired trauma counselors and set up counseling hotlines.

But a curious thing happened. The incidence of sexual assault isn’t improving. Indeed, in 2018 the number of reported “rapes” leaped to 28 from 16 the year before. Continue reading

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Anthropologists

The U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard has updated its searchable database so students can see median earnings for disciplines in which 20 or more degrees are granted. Just for yuks, I checked the data for Virginia Commonwealth University where my son is enrolled. It will surprise no one to see that students earning computer science degrees will earn more than three times as much in their first year following graduation as those who earn degrees in drama, music and anthropology.

Parents, if your kid doesn’t consult this tool, you should! See what you’re getting for your investment in his or her college education. Find out how much you’ll have to subsidize the little darling when he graduates!


UVa Gearing Up for Another Hike in Tuition & Fees

by James A. Bacon

Later this week the University of Virginia Board of Visitors will consider increasing tuition by 3% to 4% in the 2020-21 school year and jacking up fees between 3% to 6%. Here is a copy of the PowerPoint presentation showing the arguments and data that the administration presented the board in its November meeting.

As usual, the UVA administration blames tuition increases on declines in state support for higher education.  “Responsibility for funding educational costs has shifted from the taxpayer to the student,” states one slide. “Increases in tuition have not kept pace with declines in general funds, leaving a gap of $3,648 per student in 2020-2021.”

While those numbers may justify tuition increases in previous decades — UVa bases its calculations on trends going back to 1990-91 — it overlooks the fact that between 2012 and 2018 (the latest year for which I could obtain data from UVa’s annual financial reports), state support increased by $20 million even while academic (non-hospital) spending increased by $511 million! (See support for these numbers here.) The state is to blame for higher tuition? Really? In what universe? Continue reading

More PC Drivel from ___&___ University

by James A. Bacon

Triggered by the slave-owning past of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, a group of Washington & Lee University law students are clamoring for the option of being awarded diplomas stripped of the portraits of the university’s namesakes, reports the Washington Post.

I guess you could say that I’m triggered by the fact that they’re triggered. My reaction: Get over it. If some W&L grads are so bent out of shape by the university’s historical association with former slave owners, regardless of their other accomplishments, maybe they should have thought of that before they enrolled.

Here’s my solution: whiteout.

With just a few dabs, your Washington & Lee diploma could look like this:

Continue reading

Ah, the Old “Percentage of Operating Budget” Trick

SOURCE: UVIMCO 2019 annual report

by James A. Bacon

Part of the University of Virginia’s fund-raising pitch to alumni and friends is to emphasize how donations help make up for cutbacks in state support for higher education. Here’s how the University of Virginia Investment Management Co. (UVIMCO) 2019 annual report frames the issue:

The University of Virginia’s endowment strength also provides the financial support and flexibility necessary when other revenue sources decline. Historically, the University relied heavily on appropriations from the Commonwealth of Virginia. however, in Virginia and many other states, macroeconomic changes and constrained state budgets in recent years have resulted in less revenue available for public education. Steadily declining state support means the University must rely on past and continued donor generosity to sustain its margin of excellence.

The graph above shows how state support, expressed as a percentage of the academic division operating budget (excluding the UVa hospital) has declined steadily over the years. However, as Samuel Clemons famously said, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Here’s another graph, based on numbers pulled from the University of Virginia’s annual financial reports:

Continue reading

UVa Investments Top $10 Billion

The University of Virginia’s long-term investment pool has reached an all-time high of $9.6 billion, according to the University of Virginia Investment Management Company (UVIMCO). The university also maintains a $475 million short-term pool, invested in short-term Treasury bills and notes.

The long-term investment pool includes the UVa endowment, the Strategic Investment Fund and other long-term assets. In 2019, the pool generated an investment return of 5.8%, somewhat below it’s 7.9% benchmark. But over a 10-year period, UVIMCO has generated an 11.0% return compared to a 9.2% benchmark.

According to the Cavalier Daily student newspaper, UVa uses about 5% of the money returned on its investments for scholarships, fellowships and professorships, about $238 million in 2019. Continue reading

Open the Sluicegates! More Free Stuff!

by James A.Bacon

Virginia’s revenue forecasts for the next two years are looking rosy, and special interests are bursting with ideas on how to spend the money. First Medicaid, then K-12 education, then public four-year colleges. Now the Virginia Community College System.

Governor Ralph Northam, we learn today from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is pitching $50 million in community college spending over the next biennium in targeted programs to support student access and affordability.

Meanwhile, reports The Virginia Mercury, community college Chancellor Glenn DuBois wants to explore the idea of building dormitories on community college campuses to help offset a decline in enrollment. No price tag provided.

Nowhere in this discussion do we hear the phrases, “restructuring,” “focusing on core missions,” or “reallocating resources to address new priorities.” Continue reading

Tuition-free college?

It seems that the Northam administration is poised to propose actions that will address two of the concerns expressed in this blog—lessen the cost of higher education and help the middle class  In the tradition of well-timed leaks on budget proposals, the RTD reports today that the administration is considering some form of a tuition-free program for community colleges.

Although no final details are yet publicly available and those details are likely still being thrashed out in the budget development process, the basic outline seems clear. For low-income and middle-income students, the state would cover the difference between the total cost of tuition and any available federal aid. There would probably be some conditions attached to such assistance, such as the student committing to work in a public-sector job or in a “high-priority” field. Continue reading

Rent Seeking, Runaway Higher Ed Costs, and the Middle-Class Squeeze

Source: “Update on Higher Education Affordability”

by James A. Bacon

I don’t know what’s going to happen to Tony Maggio, a fiscal analyst with the House Appropriations Committee since 2001, when Democrats take control of the General Assembly. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new leadership finds his analysis, such as the graph above, to be highly inconvenient.

That graph shows the history of tuition & fees at Virginia’s public four-year institutions for undergraduate, in-state (I/S) students. It is inconvenient because it clearly shows how cuts to state support for higher education account for only a small portion of the increasing unaffordability of higher education. As such, the analysis undermines the argument — that cuts to state support are mainly to blame for higher college costs — advanced by a favorite Democratic Party constituency.

The graph appears in a PowerPoint presentation, “Update on Higher Education Affordability,” that Maggio made during the House Appropriations Committee retreat earlier this week.  That PowerPoint also shows how higher-ed spending, not cuts in state support, is driving the cost increases. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: $$$$$ Edition

They didn’t ask this question until now? Will the wave of Amazon-inspired development in the Pentagon City area of Arlington County overwhelm the region’s transportation network? “Arlington planners, and nervous neighbors, want to know,” reports the Washington Business Journal. Some neighborhood groups are wary that the point of the planning review is to clear the way for a major up-zoning in the area. “They fear the county could determine that the neighborhood has the transportation infrastructure to handle more residents and allow for density increases — even though they believe the opposite is true.”

Meanwhile, JBG Smith Properties and other developers are pitching massive new projects around the new Amazon HQ. Not coincidentally, the WBJ reports, “JBG Smith ramped up its political giving in Virginia with control of the General Assembly on the line.” JBG Smith’s Virginia campaign contributions this electoral cycle: $34,206.

Glad to hear that “Black Enterprise” is still a thing. The Mount Olive Baptist Church in Culpeper wants to create a network of support, mentorship and information for African-American small business owners. Black business ownership is increasing, but black entrepreneurs face big challenges. The goal of the network is to help them gain knowledge about finances, start-up capital and the industrial/managerial skills it takes to grow successful enterprises, reports the Star-Exponent. As the politics of grievance and victimhood have taken hold nationally, we don’t hear much about black enterprise these days. I cannot help but note that this initiative comes from a black church, not a foundation-funded think tank staffed by white intellectuals.

Can you say “overreach”? Virginia Tech will spend $5 million to $10 million to launch a biomedical research facility in Washington, D.C. by early 2021, the university announced yesterday. On a campus of a new Children’s National Hospital campus, four or five Virginia Tech research teams will conduct research on cancers of the brain and nervous system. Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands said in a statement the partnership fits Tech’s ambition “to solve big problems and create new opportunities in Virginia and D.C. through education, technology and research.” Continue reading

This Little Piggy Went to General Assembly…

by James A. Bacon

With all the hungry piggies pushing for mo’ state money, the feeding trough is getting crowded. Besides the K-12 piggy (squealing for an extra $950 million), the Virginia Retirement System piggy (an extra $215.6 million), and the monstrous Medicaid piggy (the sky’s the limit — how much money do you have?), we can add the higher-ed piggy. A State Council for Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV) report concludes that the Commonwealth’s public colleges and universities need an additional $212 million in the next biennial budget for operations and financial aid, and $826 million for capital outlays.

Here’s a breakdown of the operational funding needs: Continue reading

Out of Obscurity: Lashrecse Aird

Lashrecse Aird

As Democratic legislators organize in advance of assuming control of the General Assembly, the media spotlight shifts to the maneuvering to fill the senior leadership positions. The elevation of Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, to Senate Majority Leader is a foregone conclusion. But who will become the next Speaker of the House?

At this point, according to the Virginia Mercury, there are four declared candidates: past House Minority Leader Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax; Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg; Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince Williams, and Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax.

Of these, the most interesting to me is the little-known Aird. First of all, it’s a remarkable sign of the times that a 33-year-old African-American woman and  lawmaker with a mere four years of experience could seriously aspire to the most important state legislative position in the state. So, congratulations to Aird on that score. If she wins, I’m sure the first-in-Virginia-history angle will totally dominate the news coverage.

But there’s another aspect to Aird of interest to anyone plumbing Virginia’s deeper power structure: She is employed as chief of staff at Richard Bland College, a two-year college in Prince George County. As Speaker of the House she would be a powerful ally of public higher education in Virginia. Continue reading

W&M Grad Students Plead for More Gruel

Please, sir, I want some more..

Working graduate students at the College of William & Mary are launching a campaign to demand better treatment, pay and benefits, reports WY Daily. The grad students want health, vision, and dental insurance paid as part of their yearly compensation and benefits, says Jasper Conner, a spokesman for the William & Mary Workers Union.

“The William & Mary Workers’ Union is also fighting for a living wage for all employees of the university, which would raise the annual pay of many workers by $4,000,” Conner said. Health care costs for graduate workers increased 11% this year. Members of the union plan to rally on campus Friday to bring attention to their demands.

This is just another example, as if any were needed, that American institutions of higher education, which profess a commitment to social equity, fail grotesquely short of their own ideals. The higher-ed labor force is a hierarchical caste system. An aristocracy of highly compensated superstar professors are the Brahmans. Under them, there exists a sub-hierarchy of assistant, associate and full professors; a tier of “instructors” who aren’t on the tenure track; a lower tier of poorly paid adjunct professors; and the lowest of the low, graduate students who teach in return for meager stipends. Graduate students comprise, in effect, a class of indentured servants. No health benefits? Really? No wonder the W&M graduate students are unionizing.