Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement today as the Grow By Degrees Coalition launched its 2013 higher education policy agenda with events around the Commonwealth. The group, founded in 2009 by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council, also released the results of an economic impact study by the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia that found every state dollar invested in higher education results in $17.40 in economic activity. The Grow By Degrees coalition has been a partner in the McDonnell Administration's efforts to increase state funding to higher education, and improve access and affordability for Virginia students. Since Governor McDonnell took office, the General Assembly has appropriated $400 million to Virginia's colleges and universities and 2012 saw the lowest average yearly tuition increase at Virginia's schools in a decade. Since 2009, Virginia's schools have enrolled 14,000 additional undergraduate students, putting the Commonwealth on pace to fulfill the Governor's objective of awarding an additional 100,000 degrees by 2025.
"Once again, I applaud Virginia's business community for their active engagement and valuable initiative in support of higher education reinvestment and reform, as reflected in today's announcement by the Grow By Degrees coalition. As this latest economic impact study again demonstrates, there is a direct and powerful connection between our higher education investments and Virginians' access to top jobs, plus growth in our knowledge-based economy. Our investments in the future through our colleges, universities and community colleges pay Virginians dividends for decades. We know the old saying, to get a good job you need a good education. That's why our administration has been so focused on ensuring that we make higher education more accessible and affordable for Virginia students. It is crucial to the future of job creation and economic growth in our Commonwealth.
"Since the launch of Grow By Degrees four years ago, we have worked in close partnership with leaders from business and higher education, as well as General Assembly members from both parties, to advance our shared agenda for education and the economy. In 2011, building on the work of our bipartisan higher education commission, the General Assembly unanimously approved the landmark 'Top Jobs' legislation, and we have jump-started implementation of that vital program-including the plan to award 100,000 more degrees by 2025 with a concentration in science, technology, engineering, math, and healthcare-by working successfully with the Legislature to provide additional appropriations for higher education totaling nearly $400 million. For too long the Commonwealth had not been investing properly in higher education. We have reversed that trend.
"I look forward to continuing to support greater investment in higher education. Not only is this good for the economy; it is also helping to make college more affordable. In the last two years, higher education reinvestment at the State level has helped enable our colleges and universities to keep tuition increases at the lowest level in over a decade, and 14,000 new slots have been added at our schools for undergraduate students. The 'College, Knowledge and Jobs' policy agenda released today contains important suggestions for next steps in implementing the 'Top Jobs' program. I will take those priorities into account as I assemble my outgoing budget proposals.
"We are indeed fortunate to have an active and engaged business community, rallying in support of higher education because of their commitment to Virginia's economic future. The Grow By Degrees coalition is a steadfast and critical partner in our ongoing efforts to help more Virginia students get the educations they need, in order to secure the good jobs they deserve."
Launched in 2009 by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC), the Grow By Degrees coalition is comprised of business and community leaders, economic development officials and organizations, college and university leaders, public officials and others who share the conviction that Virginia's economic future is fundamentally tied to higher education.