While a college degree is essential to succeed in today's economy, only 35% of college-age Virginians are actually enrolled in a two or four year college and only 42% of Virginians have a college degree. Increasing these enrollments means keeping tuition within reasonable limits and making more grants as appropriate to permit our children to access our colleges and universities.
For Virginia to compete nationally and internationally in the 21st century, and to ensure our children are able to succeed in this competitive environment, we must do better supporting our institutions of higher education, including our community college system and world-class teaching and research facilities such as the University of Virginia. It is unacceptable that the state funds only 6.7% percent of UVA's total operating budget (a percentage that has decreased over the last several years) while undergraduate tuition at the University has increased almost 35% over the past five years.
While I was proud to support Governor McDonnell's "Top Jobs" Higher Education funding legislation in 2011 which provided $100 million to create more in-state slots at public colleges and universities in the Commonwealth, there is much more to be done. 2011 also marked the first year in which tuition at the University of Virginia provided a greater amount of funding per student than state appropriations. Over the last 10 years, state support for UVA has dropped 42%, and is now less than a third of what North Carolina provides UNC-Chapel Hill ($8,601 per student compared with $26,034). At the same time, tuition at Piedmont Virginia Community College has risen almost 300% since 2000.
I support "Grow By Degrees", a campaign initiated by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) to "promote economic growth through high-impact investment and innovation in Virginia's colleges, universities and community colleges." The campaign will focus on making college affordable to more Virginians, particularly those entering high-income, high-demand fields in science and engineering, health care, and teaching.I also support "Access UVA," and the principle that no Virginia student admitted to the University should be excluded because they lack sufficient financial resources.
I have been pleased to support funding to build critical new buildings at the University, including the Emily Couric Cancer Center, Rice Hall (the School of Engineering and Applied Science's information technology engineering building), the Physical and Life Sciences building for the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Wilsdorf Hall, and the Claude Moore Nursing Education Building, and to support expansions in research funding. These investments contribute to the economic vitality of our region while building the infrastructure necessary to cement UVa's position as one of the pre-eminent public universities in the country.