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Deeds Renews Commitment to Expand Higher Education at the Grow By Degrees Summit

Location: Richmond, VA

Sen. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee for governor, renewed his commitment to expanding access to higher education for all Virginians in a speech to the Grow By Degrees Summit in Richmond on Thursday.

"I know firsthand that educational opportunity constitutes a cornerstone of Virginia's economy; I am a product of Virginia's public schools," said Deeds.

"I'm standing here today, running for Governor, thanks to good public schools and a college education," Deeds continued.

As Governor, Sen. Deeds will develop the smartest workforce in the world and bring high-skill, high-wage jobs to the Commonwealth. Deeds' plan would create an additional 70,000 degrees over the next ten years for two- and four-year programs. In the plan that he laid out on September 9th, Deeds advocated for increased accessibility and affordability in higher education.

Read Deeds' Full Plan for Education

Below are the prepared remarks of Sen. Deeds.

Prepared Remarks of Senator R. Creigh Deeds
Virginia Summit on Economic Competitiveness and Higher Education
Richmond Convention Center

Thank you, Austin, for that kind introduction and for your commitment to this effort. It's encouraging to see so many business, government, and education leaders from across Virginia and across the political spectrum participating here, and I want to commend the Virginia Business Higher Education Council for hosting this summit and for waging the Grow By Degrees campaign.

This election is about bringing prosperity, economic opportunity and hope to every corner of the Commonwealth. It's not a campaign slogan--this has been my life's work. That commitment is why I became involved in public service--it is who I am. And I applaud the Grow By Degrees Coalition's calling for additional and sustained investment in Virginia's public colleges and universities.

I am proud of my eighteen-year legislative record of fighting for economic opportunity and protecting our shared priorities. I understand the pressures faced by Virginia families--I'm part of one. That's why my plans for Virginia focus on solutions for the struggles we all face every day.

I know firsthand that educational opportunity constitutes a cornerstone of Virginia's economy: I am a product of Virginia's public schools. With two grandmothers who taught here, I grew up understanding how the importance of getting a diploma and that I had to make most of every opportunity that came my way. I'm standing here today, running for Governor, thanks to good public schools and a college education.

My mom got me started. She made sure I had the opportunity to attend college, and sent me off with just four $20 bills in my pocket. Today, four $20 bills can't buy a biology textbook.

Virginia faces a crisis. The statistics are daunting, but behind them are families who are hurting--families who worrying about keeping their homes, students wondering whether the promise of a college education will be open to them, and workers wondering whether they will have a job.

My experience has taught me that challenge breeds opportunity, and make no mistake: nothing worth doing gets done unless both sides work together. It's by reaching across the aisle to collaborate and compromise that we will continue to govern in the tradition that made Virginia what it is today. Here is my vision: I want a Virginia that is the nation's leader in economic opportunity, where someone in any corner of the Commonwealth can turn their ideas into economic engines that could change the world. Virginia can become the national leader in clean energy, medical research and cutting edge technology.

I want a Virginia where every child can grow up healthy and young people can receive the best possible education at a public school, and where Virginia students at Virginia colleges and universities produce groundbreaking discoveries. And I want a Virginia where progress, respect and equality prevail, not one separated by politicians with narrow social agendas.
We cannot move forward when we are led by those who make division and personal crusades the priority over the common good.

That's my vision. This is my plan.

We need to jump-start our economy and create jobs. If we invest in education, we can create better schools--which means smarter workers who can fill more high-wage, high-demand jobs all over the state. Better schools, better jobs.

Because my college education was so instrumental in my life, my education plan will create 70,000 additional degrees at our colleges and universities in the next 10 years--an 18% growth, and an opportunity to grant access to a better future for every kid who graduates from a Virginia high school. That will help us develop the smartest workforce in the world.

But, since 2001, the average tuition at our state's four-year colleges has spiked almost 80%, making it even harder for Virginians to afford college. Too many talented students get turned away at the door because of cost, and that is unacceptable. College affordability is a necessary key to my education plan--and a major part of my economic plan, too. We have to build a smart, well-educated workforce that can actively participate in our economy. Every dollar invested in a student's future is an investment in Virginia's future-- as Grow By Degrees research shows, Virginia gets almost $1.40 back for every dollar we invest in higher education.

As Governor, I will commit an additional $40 million per year to college financial aid and provide up to $15,000 a year in guaranteed student loans. Every Virginian will have access to an affordable higher education.

In addition, I'll create the "Virginia Forward" Scholarship program, which will guarantee that any high school student who maintains a "B" average can attend a public Virginia college or university with a 50% scholarship in exchange for committing to at least two years of public service in Virginia after graduation, like becoming a firefighter or a nurse in a high-need area. That's a win-win for everyone--we give more of our students a world-class education and Virginia Forward scholars help us build the smartest workforce in the nation right here in Virginia.

To encourage students to enter high-need fields and fill jobs in high-need areas, we will offer targeted loan forgiveness. For every three years of teaching in a high-need area, we will forgive one year of loans. For every three years of teaching in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, we will forgive one year of loans. And for every six years of professional work in STEM disciplines, we will forgive two years of loans. I also will increase the number and value of Tuition Assistance Grants for Virginia students attending great private schools in-state, like Virginia Union right down the street from here. The up-front investment is worth it, as students will pay Virginia back several times over by entering the workforce with more advanced skills--and better pay.

The Governor of Virginia has the responsibility and duty to set priorities and long-term goals for the state. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have laid the groundwork putting Virginia on course to becoming the "best-educated state" by 2020. As their successor, I will commit the needed resources to boost these efforts and do the best we can for the next generation. The next Governor and legislative leaders on both sides of the political aisle will have the responsibility to finish the job. You in the business community, I know, will hold them to it.

There is no way Virginia can afford to award 70,000 cumulative additional degrees by 2020 doing business as usual. We have to make smarter investments and be willing to take new and innovative approaches like those I've proposed in my education and economic plans.

Every day out on the campaign trail I talk about bringing opportunity to every corner of the Commonwealth. Well, guess what's already in every corner of Virginia? A community college--a center of learning, hope, and a pathway to economic security and an overall better quality of life for anyone.

The establishment of Virginia's community college system was a bold, forward-thinking endeavor that has sparked economic growth in every region of Virginia, even the most economically challenged ones. It's a tremendous success story--one with chapters yet to be written.

There's a community college within an hour's drive of every Virginian, and they will be critical to building the smartest workforce in the world and attracting the investment we're talking about. Given the necessary tools, our community colleges have the ability to take on an even greater role in helping grow our economy.

I will also invest in state grants to help Virginians pay for job training. The grant would be available to displaced workers and those wanting to proactively train for a new job. We have to provide our workers with the training they need to compete in this changing economy. As old industries fade away and new ones take shape, Virginia must be at the ready with a highly skilled, flexible workforce. Otherwise, investment and jobs will go to other states and other countries. It's that simple.

I will invest $10 million each year in the Governor's Opportunity Fund, specifically for job retraining. Businesses could apply to train local workers for specific business needs. Individuals could apply for grants, too.

The state should take a greater responsibility in pursuing, encouraging, and supporting innovative public-private partnerships that connect job training to regional needs. A real-world, successful example is the partnership UVA's Engineering School and Central Virginia Community College have with the private sector to recruit and train new engineers. Young Virginians earn engineering degrees and find good jobs that allow them stay in the communities where they grew up. Corporate partners get a pipeline of well-trained workers. And communities like Lynchburg benefit from the economic boost the jobs and tax benefits provide.

We need to make smart investments in partnerships like this, investments that make sense for the industries that we have--and those we want. As Governor, I will institute a biannual state review to ensure that we are targeting the programs and jobs Virginia needs.

In 1960, North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges got the General Assembly down there to appropriate $200,000 and went out into the private sectors raised another $1.5 million--which was a lot of state money back then--for the creation of a research park. Forty-eight years later, the research triangle is on its second forty-year plan and has brought hundreds of billions of dollars of investment and created tens of thousands of jobs to North Carolina.

We need to plant that kind of seed for our economic future today. That's why I have developed a plan to attract energy-based research to Virginia. We need to take public investment and coordinate research among our institutions of higher learning. By tying research to energy, we can create jobs in a field that will dominate our national dialogue for not just the next 25 years but the next 100 years.

The Virginia Energy Technology Research Partnership will be headed by professionals, not politicians. It will include our fifteen four-year institutions, representatives from our community colleges, and business partners. It will bring higher education institutions together to put Virginia on the cutting-edge of green job creation. The partnership will be charged with coordinating education and business efforts in emerging technology industries that will bring good-paying jobs of the future right here to Virginia.

I know we can succeed. Virginians were the driving force of the 18th century American Revolution; we can be that to the 21st century energy revolution. This research is going to happen--it's only a matter of where. And, wherever it happens, there will be enormous economic opportunity and success.

The question for us is: Do we lead, or do we follow? I say we lead.

All of these programs won't matter, however, if our students are not ready to continue their education. As Governor, I want every high school senior graduating with either a semester's worth of college credit or 18 weeks of job training. Our schools will have to work together at every level and have the necessary resources to accomplish this. Expanding tele-education and online programs are smart, cost effective ways to prepare high school students for college.

Just as roads and bridges across Virginia did not crumble overnight, the state's 40% reduction in per-student funding didn't happen in one budget cycle. And the honest truth is that we are not going to be able to make all the improvements we need in higher education overnight either. It's going to take sustained investments to create an environment that encourages and enables every young Virginian to pursue higher education, and that gives our schools the tools they need to effectively and efficiently educate those students.

We'll be faced with difficult choices in this tough economic climate. But I'm confident we'll make the right choices--education is one area where we cannot afford budget cuts. I am the only candidate with a proven track record of stepping up and making the critical investments Virginia's students need.

As your next Governor, I will be realistic and honest about the problems we face. I will reach across the aisle and bring people together to create long-term solutions to benefit the entire Commonwealth.

From attracting corporate jobs and investment, to the local and state tax benefits of a better trained and higher paid workforce, Virginia must make these investment to secure our economic future. And my record and priorities have always reflected my emphasis on creating economic opportunity for all. My campaign is about moving Virginia forward, and as Governor I will work with you every day to do just that. Thank you.

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