Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

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.

— JAB

University Faculties: Cesspools of Sexual Misconduct?

Source: “Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct”

by James A. Bacon

As Glenn Reynolds often asks on the Instapundit blog, why are liberal institutions such cesspools of racism and sexism? His provocative gag line comes to mind after perusing the 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct by the Association of American Universities.

The survey, based on polling from 33 universities including the University of Virginia, found that “sexual assault and misconduct remain far too prevalent among students at all levels of study,” writes Mary Sue Coleman, AAU President. But even a brief dip into the data suggests that the sexual assault and misconduct is not confined to students.

States the study: “Graduate and professional students were [more likely than undergrads] to be subject to sexually harassing behavior by a faculty member or instructor.” Among graduate and professional women, 24% of the sexual harassment incidents were at the hands of a faculty member or instructor. For male graduate students, the percentage was 18%.

Stalking, apparently, is another common phenomenon on college campuses.  Among women graduate/professional students, 6.5% reported that a faculty member stalked them. Very creepy. Continue reading

Our Little Five Billion

UVa President James Ryan

by James A. Bacon

University fund-raisers are like presidential elections — as soon as one campaign ends, another one starts. Here in the Old Dominion, the University of Virginia is in the midst of a $5 billion boodle-building campaign. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is raising $1.5 billion, the College of William & Mary $1 billion, Virginia Commonwealth University $750 million, and George Mason University $500 million. That’s pretty serious dough. For purposes of comparison: Harvard, the wealthiest institution of higher education in the country (and probably the world), raised $9.6 billion in its last five-year campaign.

It never ceases to fascinate me how higher ed, which obsesses over issues of racial and socio-economic equity, has become such an engine of elitism. Donors get tax write-offs for their contributions, and public university endowments pay no taxes on income. (The 2017 federal tax law imposes a 1.4% excise tax on private-institution endowments worth $500,000 or more per student.) Here in Virginia, public university endowments also are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Sweet deal — tax breaks out the  wazoo, and freedom from public scrutiny! All to benefit whom? Faculty, administrators and, disproportionately, the children of the well-to-do.

Not surprisingly, university administrators cast their pitches for mo’ money as benefiting students and the public — more financial aid, more enriching education, more research, and, of course, as UVa President James E. Ryan, puts it, a “fearless search for truth.”

You can’t spend $5 billion without doing some good for somebody. But it bothers me that almost no one ever pushes back. No one ever questions the fund-raising goals. No one asks if the money could be spent to better effect elsewhere. There are rare exceptions — listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, “My Little Hundred Million.” But you never hear such voices in Virginia. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Cloudy Day Edition

Neo-Nazies on the loose. I’ve been highly critical of Attorney General Mark Herring for spinning state crime statistics to imply that there has been a surge in white supremacist hate crimes in Virginia. But that’s not to say there aren’t hateful white supremacists residing in the the state. The Daily Beast describes how an FBI crackdown on the so-called “Atomwaffen Division,” which it describes as a “homicidal neo-Nazi guerilla organization,” has netted criminal charges against two alleged members of the group’s Virginia cell. In June, the FBI arrested Brian Patricks Baynes, of Fairfax, on gun possession charges. And in September, the bureau arrested 21-year-old Andrew Jon Thomasberg, of McLean. The white-supremacist threat is real, and it must be taken seriously. But let’s not blow that threat out of proportion.

The Staunton Miracle. Rural Virginia may be in an economic funk, but Virginia’s smaller metros seem to be holding up pretty well. The Staunton/Waynesboro labor market has the lowest unemployment rate of any in the state — 2.5%, according to August 2019 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by the News Leader. Next lowest: Charlottesville and Winchester at 2.6%, Harrisonburg at 2.7%, and Roanoke at 2.8%. Among major metros, Richmond is the lowest at 2.9%. We hear all the time — and I have perpetuated this narrative — that most of the jobs are going to the big metros. Is this true? We can’t tell from unemployment data alone. We also need to look at job creation, under-employment and workforce-participation rates. Regardless, it’s good to see that almost everyone who wants a job in small-metro Virginia seems to have one.

A voice for the voiceless. The Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust, a former sponsor of this blog, is making progress toward building Virginia’s first coalition to address the affordability crisis in higher education. The Virginia College Affordability Policy Council met last week to discuss solutions to problems of affordability and workforce readiness. Co-chairs include James V. Koch, former president of Old Dominion University, and Brett A. Vassey, president of the Virginia Manufacturers Association. The group has recruited a wide range of businesses and trade associations as members. You can view Koch’s presentation here.

JLARC: Medicaid Jumps 19% In Expansion Year

Source: JLARC October 7 report on state spending over time, in this case a decade of sustained economic growth with no recession.

By Steve Haner

Every year, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission issues a report looking at ten years of state spending, sliced and diced various ways. In recent years, the headline results have largely been surprisingly consistent and the 2019 report issued Monday fit the pattern. As seen before:

  • Medicaid program costs lead the charge, exploding almost 19% in one year due to the expansion that started January 1, 2019, even though the fiscal year was one-half over by then. It went from $10 billion to $11.9 billion. The average annual growth over the decade has exceeded 7% and $600 million.
  • Keeping up with Medicaid, and exceeding it in some categories, are the various forms of transportation spending. In the decade since the base year of the report, fiscal year 2010, Virginia has passed both statewide and regional transportation tax increases, and various toll projects have been completed – all flowing through the state’s books.
  • The third budget element that has seen major growth is higher education, with the vast majority of the new money coming from tuition, fees and auxiliary operations at the state schools, not state tax dollars. When all the schools are lumped together, their spending growth is right in line with the other two mega programs, and the higher education totals push past the growth in state funds transferred for local public schools. Local public schools don’t charge tuition and fees they can raise at will.
  • Virginia’s general economic performance lagged the national average for the entire decade, with average annual gross domestic product growth of 1.4% (versus 2.2% nationally), per capita income growth of 2.8% (versus 3.4% nationally) and labor force growth of 0.9% (versus 1.5% nationally.)  The GDP is adjusted for inflation.

Continue reading

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

UVa’s Booming R&D Program: What It Means

University of Virginia research funding. Source: UVa.

by James A. Bacon

One can debate how well the University of Virginia is serving the interests of students, families and the general citizenry through its aggressive increases in tuition, fees, and other costs of attendance. But there is no denying that Virginia’s No. 2 research university has been successful at attracting outside research dollars.

Sponsored research funding has increased from $311 million in 2014-15 to $412 million in in 2018-19 — a 32.5% increase, according to data recently released by the university.

“Our outstanding teams of faculty, staff and students across all the schools have propelled us over the $400 million mark in research funding,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Liz Magill. “Meanwhile, researchers … are targeting interdisciplinary approaches that improve the chances of receiving grants down the road.” Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Many Grand Schemes but No Numbers on Cost

VCU’s new master plan. You can tell when you’ve entered most universities because you must pass through impressive-looking gates. You don’t know when you’ve entered Virginia Commonwealth University because the urban university bleeds into the surrounding community. The university’s new ONE VCU master plan will address that by creating two create two “Front Door” projects identifying entrances to the campus, reports Virginia Business. The land use/facilities planning document also calls for improving pedestrian safety — there were 47 pedestrian accidents in 2018-19 — addressing the parking shortage at the medical campus, and providing more bike lanes, among other initiatives. No numbers on cost.

Carbon Neutrality by 2050. Governor Ralph Northam set a goal earlier this month of a zero-carbon electric grid by 2050. Arlington County has gone one better: total carbon neutrality within three decades. The plan approved Saturday envisions a locality where “all electricity will come from renewable sources, where more residents will drive electric vehicles and more will use transit, and where homes and buildings will be more energy efficient,” reports ARL Now. While some hailed the plan, others said it wasn’t ambitious enough and relies too much on technology-based solutions. No numbers on cost.

Mo’ money for schools! Adjusted for inflation, state funding for K-12 education per student is still down 8% from pre-recession levels, finds the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (CI) in a new report. That sounds terrible — no wonder our schools are having so much trouble! — but the report doesn’t tell us the full picture of what student funding looks like when accounting for federal support and local spending. Is per student spending up, down, the same? CI doesn’t say. However, the report does contain some useful information on inputs — changes in the number of teachers, instructors, support staff, and teacher aides. The assumption is that more spending and more staff = better outcomes. Does it? No numbers on that.

— JAB

Update: I have re-written the original post on “Mo’ money for schools” to reflect the fact that CI provides more data in its report than I originally acknowledged. Further update: Upon reflection, I regret my knee-jerk reaction to CI’s implicit call for mo’ money. The statistical profiles of each school district contain loads of information — especially on staffing levels — not readily available anywhere else.  Kudos to CI to bringing more transparency to school funding and staffing. I fully intend to draw upon this data in future posts.