By The Spartan Echo
In a speech before faculty and staff gathered in the rotunda of Norfolk State University’s library on Wednesday morning, May 11, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced record-setting spending initiatives for higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. “While other states are cutting, we’re investing in education,” McAuliffe told the crowd. “We were able to secure more than a billion dollars in new spending . . . the largest in history.”
Norfolk State University President and CEO Eddie N. Moore Jr. opened the event by describing the state’s budget legislation as “one of the most successful legislative agendas for higher education” in recent memory.
McAuliffe characterized the legislation as investment in Virginia’s economy. “Our whole emphasis is building a new Virginia economy,” McAuliffe said. “Education is what drives the workforce.” The governor cited 30,000 tech jobs and 17,000 cyber-security jobs that currently are vacant in Virginia as proof that higher education investment is needed and will support a growing workforce in the state’s growing economy. In addition, “175,000 mid-skill-level jobs sat open last year,” he said. “We need to fix that.”
McAuliffe said more investment in higher education is possible because he entered office “with a $2.4 billion deficit” and moved Virginia to the “largest surplus in history.” While he said “I think our higher education system is second to none,” he also warned that public colleges and universities need to slow the growth of tuition rates, rein in spending, and make cuts where necessary. “The key is making college more affordable for all of our students,” McAuliffe said. He emphasized that public colleges and universities, in return for more investment, need to focus on completion rates so that students graduate with degrees.
He also outlined specific spending initiatives as part of the overall higher education package that would increase access to college for nontraditional students and create incentives for more STEM-H education throughout Virginia. STEM-H stands for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health. McAuliffe also highlighted new bond initiatives in Virginia that would support construction on campuses like Norfolk State University. He said the bond package he signed recently “…will take Virginia to a new level in research.”